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quick takes on two romances

Posted by martinteller on June 22, 2014

Sleepless in Seattle is a film that most people should be familiar with, but the basic premise is that newly widowed Sam (Tom Hanks) gets roped by his son Jonah (Ross Malinger) into a radio call-in show to express his sorrow… and hopefully find a new love. Annie (Meg Ryan), on the other side of the country, listens and feels an instant connection, despite her engagement to Walter (Bill Pullman), who is soooo boring he never goes by anything but Walter. And he has allergies, lame! I liked the rapport between Hanks and Malinger and found the movie’s sweetest moments in their father-son bond. Victor Garber and Rita Wilson are enjoyable as Sam’s friends. I kind of hated the rest of it. Ephron does the male audience a huge disservice by constantly drawing lines between men and women, as if attempting a pre-emptive strike against men who don’t “get it’. Just because I’m not crazy about An Affair to Remember (and I did mostly like it despite the contrivances, not to mention the racism) doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a good romance. This romance is based on nothing but whim, an insane notion of “magic”… that just happens to short-change duds like Walter, who clearly has no magic in him because he needs a humidifier, and Victoria (Barbara Garrick), who has a mildly annoying laugh. The film kinda sorta gives Walter a break at the end, but doesn’t seem to give a damn about Victoria. Honestly, I think movies like this give romance — real romance — a bum rap, trying to convince viewers that true love comes from thin air. Oh, and a shared respect for a particular baseball player. Twaddle. Rating: Poor (33)

I am somewhat kinder to Love Jones, although it also suffers from an unconvincing central romance. It concerns a writer/poet named Darius (Larenz Tate) who is strongly drawn to the recently-separated aspiring photographer Nina (Nia Long). His persistence sparks an animal attraction and the two fall into bed, both denying that it’s a “love thing”. Darius and Nina go through a series of ups and downs, trying to figure out their relationship while getting input from a circle of friends both supportive (Isaiah Washington, Lisa Nicole Carson, Leonard Roberts, Bernadette Speakes) and ultimately antagonistic (Bill Bellamy). The main issue here is that it’s mostly downs. The movie spends so much time putting up emotional/commitment roadblocks that the prolonged “will they/won’t they?” becomes “who cares?”. We don’t see enough of them happy together and sharing real, non-sexual intimacy to have anything to root for. I have a big ol’ soft spot for Larenz Tate, and I really enjoyed the supporting cast, especially Washington and Carson. Also as a Chicago native, it’s nice to see some areas — including my old stomping grounds, Hyde Park — beyond the usual downtown landmarks. And I have to give the movie some Liberal Points for a depiction of black professionals and creative types, sadly all too rare in American cinema. Although the movie sometimes seems to be pushing too hard in that direction, giving the characters instant success, at least it’s the right direction. But despite some strong assets (such as the smooth soundtrack including favorites like Curtis Mayfield and The Brand New Heavies) the movie fails at building a compelling romance, or having anything all that insightful to say about relationships. Clichés like the slo-mo love scene (dissolving into a sunrise!) or the “chasing after the train” bit don’t help either.  Rating: Poor (59)

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