So today I took my mom to see Letters to Juliet for her mother's day gift. Sometimes your impression towards a film really depends on who you see it with and their attitude towards it. For example, I don't know that I ever had the chance (thank goodness haha!) to truly fall in love with Avatar when I saw it with my skeptical friend Shauny. She isn't too keen on sci-fi but was game to see the movie with me anyway (I love that about her, she'll see anything with me!) We both went along with the movie to a point, but when the alien sex scene happened we both kind of lost it. She snickered at the ridiculousness of the scene, and I was brought out of it too because of her reaction and thought to myself, "yeah...this is pretty ridiculous." Had I seen the movie with my Dad (who is obsessed with it now) I probably, at least initially, would have had different feelings on the movie. Though I'm still convinced that I would have felt some sort of backlash for it anyway as it became a cultural phenomenon and made SO much money when it was really only average (and completely derivative)...but that's another story...
But back to Letters to Juliet. This was a sweet little film, which my mom happened to adore, and her enthusiasm was contagious. My friend Anna had seen it a few weeks earlier and told me it was mediocre. If I had seen it with her, I might have had a similar impression. But seeing it with my mom, I saw it for what it was: just a sweet love story. Yes, it had some unbearably cheesy lines in it, and strictly followed the romantic formula that usually I get pretty tired of, but seeing it with her, I still liked it. This is because she saw more in it than just a fairy tale. Now before I get into why we liked it better than the average chick flick, let me first say, that the film certainly should be acknowledged as a fairy tale and a part of me kept thinking about the quote from (500) Days of Summer:
"It’s these cards, and the movies and the pop songs, they’re to blame for all the lies and the heartache, everything. We’re responsible. I’M responsible. I think we do a bad thing here. People should be able to say how they feel, how they really feel, not ya know, some words that some stranger put in their mouth. Words like love, that don’t mean anything."
It's not wrong to be entertained by films like Letters to Juliet, but it's also very important to label it for what it is: entertainment. It's fun, sweet, and cute....but hardly real. In other words, I do think it's very important not to let stuff like this color your expectations of what love and relationships should be, but they are harmless and fun when you understand that fact. So while I don't like giving films like this too much weight, that doesn't mean the romantic side of me (yes, I have one...who knew?) doesn't enjoy seeing happy endings every now and then...even if they are totally far-fetched (but only if the film as a whole, is done right!!)
So why did we generally enjoy it? Well, My mom is all about looking deeper and analyzing things (probably where I get it from!) To her, what made the movie special was the relationships between all the characters (not just the romantic relationships, but the mother/daughter type bond between Vanessa Redgrave and Amanda Seyfried as well,) and the amount of chemistry they shared with their respective love interests. This led us to another interesting post-movie discussion about romantic chemistry in film.
For me, chemistry can make an average film, above average. It has the power to make or break a film. As we discussed what we considered to be romantic comedy bombs we noticed the main factor always seemed to be a lack of chemistry. One recurring culprit we found was Hugh Grant. When we looked at his filmography we found that he never really has chemistry with anyone!! (Though I have no problems with his acting abilities...he's fantastic in About a Boy.) Of the many zillions of rom-coms he's done, I would say that his only great chemistry was found in Love Actually, with an actress who I've never seen in anything else . But with Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, Drew Barrymore? The results were mostly meh.
So here is the question I pose to you: what are some examples of the best and worst chemistry you've ever seen?
Pour Moi? Well...I know...I'm predictable...but I gotta mention (500) Days of Summer. Again. Haha, but seriously...the scene outside the bar after karaoke is off the charts. (The scene in the copy room as well as the scene in Ikea are also great.) I'd also mention the Keira Knightley Pride & Prejudice, Penelope with James McAvoy and Christina Ricci (that's a great cinematic kiss! even if they don't share that many scenes in the film) and Moulin Rouge...to name a few. Now as far as terrible chemistry? Probably Matthew McConaughey and anyone. But definitely Jennifer Lopez and Ralph Fiennes in Maid in Manhattan. Who thought that match would be a good idea???