Posted by: Joe Eds | January 3, 2010

The Decade: Relationship Movies

This will likely conclude this series on our site. In fact I was positive we were done, but I happen to be flipping channels on the TV yesterday and came across a film that has been notedly absent from many of the “Best of the Decade” lists from the last month:  High Fidelity. Watching that film inspired to do this post about the three films that really nail the spirit of relationships (highs and lows) and best capture the sweet and sour. All three have similar themes, they’re about break ups and moving on and improving yourself to improve your relationships. All have great music accompanying it. Each have a “gimmick” so to speak on how to frame the story. And each really hit the nail on the male pov of relationships.

High Fidelity – I’ll be upfront. I like this movie because this is a guy’s version of how relationships work. I’m a guy. I see a lot of authentic male traits in Rob (John Cusack) and how he deals with women, getting over women and the bumps on the road. Many men see the world similarly to Rob. We’re self-centered, we’re confused, we get pissed off easily, we obsess over things for years. The main difference is that most men (myself included) don’t look like John Cusack. I wouldn’t even pass for his ugly cousin. And while it’s shallow to assume John Cusack’s character gets away with his antics because he looks like John Cusack, it’d be a lie to not bring it up. Though I’ll give him credit, not just his puppy-dog looks win us over, this is Cusack’s best performance. I don’t think he’s came even close to topping it. The gimmick of the “Top Five” is clever and grounded. Watching it on cable yesterday I forgot how damn funny this movie is, as opposed to…

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – which is one of those that as soon as I walked out of the theater I knew I had seen something very special.  Our experience of falling in love with films often has to do with timing. My wife and I had just started dating when we saw this, we followed it up with ice cream and went over how we noticed moments that really spoke to us. The clever device (memory erase) that the story uses to go back and forth in the relationship’s history. How cruel couples can be to each other. The joy of connecting with another soul. The thrill of meeting someone new. This movie gets it. At it’s core this film is really about insecurity. An insecure private guy drawn out by an outspoken, flamboyant partner. The high-spirited American girl who likes to dye her hair, go out drinking, but scarred from feeling ugly as a child. Happiness and turmoil. That’s what relationships give us, and in the end all we want to do is go through the whole thing again.

(500) Days of Summer –  Not a great film compared with the above two. Certainly borrows themes from many relationship movies before it. But I love the innocence of it. How the agony is played as jokes. A look at how absurd men get attached to the “female object”. How we don’t see the end coming. How we dream about how life should be, how it turns out. The most effective sequence is we see Tom (Gordon-Levitt) enter a party and a split-screen is used to show what is happening and what he thinks would happen. It’s great. I don’t know a man alive who hasn’t gone through the same experience. It’s sad watching that scene, but in odd way still funny because we relate to it and we the audience know what’s about to be revealed while the lead is still clueless.  It never goes dark. You don’t see Tom bragging about scoring with his dream girl. We see him do a dance number on the street. We don’t see him going on a rampage, we see him tell a couple holding hands to go get a room. Again, not great cinema, but for a relationship movie a nice treat.


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