Ok so with this column I’m going to attempt to not let it turn into another one of my rambles (but I’m promising nothing). Something has been on my mind recently and that’s the portrayal, in Hollywood, of relationships since the 90s. You only need to look at posters of movies starring Matthew McConaughey from this era. These would usually find him smiling and leaning dreamily against an object or a person (Yes I’m referring to Failure To Launch and How to Lose a Guy In Ten Days).These films genuinely give you the impression that relationships are easy, lack depth and follow a formula. The plot goes as follows: Guy meets girl and they are effortlessly happy (to the point they are giddy) until one overly dramatic setback leads to them separating, only for some overblown gesture to reunite them and for everything to end happily ever after. This is just not the case in reality. Now don’t get me wrong I don’t subscribe to the whole self-indulgent Sex and the City approach of cast over-analysing the trivial and I’m not a pessimist when it comes to relationships but to say that any long term liaison is without struggle is just naïve!
OK, so I’m single at the moment (surprised?), but many of my friends have girlfriends or boyfriends (or both) and are very happy I might add and I feel I have been in enough relationships to know that this idealisation is poppycock. Yet, modern day screenwriters and directors have consistently propagated this myth. The truth is in order for a couple to be successful there are many factors which are pivotal and people’s attitudes can and will change over time.
The two movies I mentioned previously, Failure To Launch and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, in addition to having ridiculous movie posters are also riddled with clichés and with contrived plots. I should point out I am not bashing McConaughey, I think he’s starred in some great movies since (such as Mud and Killer Joe) and has proved with the right material he is a genuinely a talented actor but his work from this period was that of someone on autopilot. Failure To Launch sees McConaughey’s parents hire an expert (can you call Sarah Jessica Parker that?) to pretend to fall in love with him to motivate him to move out of their home but shockingly she falls in love with him for real and in the end they by a boat to live on and sail away together. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days sees McConaughey paired with Kate Hudson. In this Oscar worthy script Hudson’s character is a journalist trying to write a column about getting a man to break up with her in, yes you guessed it, 10 days and ironically (oh the irony) McConaughey’s advertising executive makes a bet with his colleagues that he can make any woman fall in love with him. I know what you’re thinking an astonishing plot.
All that said there are some recent movies out there which I think genuinely do justice to the complexities of modern day partnerships. Three of my favourites are 500 Days Of Summer, One Day (based on the David Nicholls book of the same name) and High Fidelity. In the case of “500 Days of Summer”, the couple, (played by Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel) fall in love but their relationship doesn’t work out in the end and that’s life because sometimes things just don’t! In the case of One Day we have two people who genuinely love each other but are victims of circumstance because despite being compatible relationships have a lot to do with timing (well plus the fact that Jim Sturgess’ character acts like a moron for a large portion of the film). High Fidelity I pick because if girls genuinely want to know how many guys think and feel in a relationship watch this movie. John Cusack’s character’s journey of self-discovery, reflecting on exes, really makes you think about the way your former partners can be romanticised and idealised.
If you watch some of the classic movies made prior to the 90s (Casablanca or Gone with the Wind?), the central relationships are full of depth and pathos but also don’t work out. Key to any convincing screen relationship is having three dimensional characters (Just look at Scarlett O’Hara and Rick Blaine) who go through genuine turmoil and whom you invest. The majority of modern romantic comedies fail to achieve this.
I guess what I’m getting at is relationships are tough. Sometimes they’re successful, rewarding and life enriching but they don’t always last forever. We all need escapism from time to time but Hollywood needs a relationship reality check.