I watched 20 new-to-me romances in February 2020, and I am so proud of myself! One was my library pick, one was from a Flickchart movie challenge, but the other 18 were suggestions from Facebook friends. Once I realized I had a movie representing every decade since the 1920’s, I did my very best to watch them in chronological order, which I really enjoyed! Here are my reviews. (WARNING: SPOILERS are in the reviews; sometimes I’m vague, and sometimes I’m not, and each movie has an IMDB premise, so if you don’t want it spoiled, skip the review!)
THE MOVIES AND REVIEWS
- The Cameraman, 1929 (Hannah) Amazon Prime, $3
Premise: Hopelessly in love with a woman working at MGM Studios, a clumsy man attempts to become a motion picture cameraman to be close to the object of his desire.
My very first Buster Keaton film! And it was very sweet. I haven’t seen a lot of silent films and sometimes I have a bit of trouble with the pacing, but I quite liked this one. He was a very endearing character, and my sister and I giggled throughout the whole thing. The ending really was great, though; it was a very sweet conclusion to both parts of his story and I was happy to have seen it.
Favorite Part: Funniest part was how horribly awful the two guys using the same dressing room was. But I loved watching him rescue her through his camera and having her realize what he’d done for her.
- Top Hat, 1935 (Ben S.) Sterling Public Library
Premise: An American dancer comes to Britain and falls for a model whom he initially annoyed, but she mistakes him for his goofy producer.
My first Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie! And it was great fun. I loved the opening in the silent room and his defiant loud tap move as he left; I like that he is just so pleased with himself that he dances all over the floor and wakes up Ginger. He was certainly a bit stalkerish in his following her around from then on out, but their first dance scene together was great. Then comes all the usual misunderstandings which produced some amusing moments, even though it’s not my favorite plot point in a movie. But it was an entertaining watch with great performances.
Favorite Part: I think the whole opening with the silent room was my favorite
- Swing Time, 1936 (Ben S.) Sterling Public Library
Premise: A performer and gambler travels to New York City to raise the $25,000 he needs to marry his fiancée, only to become entangled with a beautiful aspiring dancer
My second Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film! It had many similarities to Top Hat, but the general plot was different and this one had a slightly more serious tone. It also had some lovely musical numbers; The Way You Look Tonight was written for this movie! (So gorgeous.) I liked them both for different reasons. I enjoyed some of the more serious moments in this, particularly the “Never Gonna Dance” number, which is a sadder sounding song that portrayed a melancholier emotion when they danced together which I found quite beautiful. I think the ending was a bit cheesy where they basically just laughed for 10 minutes straight, but it was definitely a sweet one overall.
Favorite Part: Probably “Never Gonna Dance”, but I also really liked the first time they legit danced together in the studio.
- Brief Encounter, 1946 (Ben S.) Netflix DVD Queue
Premise: Meeting a stranger in a railway station, a woman is tempted to cheat on her husband.
Although affair stories aren’t typically my thing because I can’t really get into the romance, this story was well told. I liked the initial voiceover-ing that the main character does in the opening. This movie does a good job of pacing out the story, and you can tell the moment she realizes something has changed for her (it’s when he’s first going on about doctor stuff). There were some moments that were a bit dramatic because everything went so fast and they became so sure about each other so quickly, but it didn’t make it bad, it just meant I giggled at a line or two. And I liked the conclusion; the fact that this is all being “told” in one single day as she’s just dwelling over the whole affair that final evening makes sense why it’s so overwhelming for her, and I loved that last interaction with her husband. It made me think that they’re going to be okay after all, even though I don’t know if she’ll ever tell him.
Favorite Part: The ending moment with her husband, although I also liked the scene in the café station when the guard-guy comes in to the café lady’s rescue.
DISCLAIMER: This out of order movie was my own library pick when I was waiting on my next movie.
- Silver Linings Playbook, 2012 (me, library pick)
Premise: After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own.
I am writing my review for this several weeks after watching it, so I might miss some of my initial opinions. I did like it; I thought it was an interesting watch with fairly interesting characters. The opening made me make faces at Bradley Cooper as he got really upset by things and then completely denied doing that to his therapist, so I appreciated the arc that he goes through. I liked the dancing part of it. I also called that she was the one writing the letter, though I was surprised by his totally calm and rational response to it; that was a good part of his growth as a character and realizing what he truly wanted. It might not be super memorable, but it’s possible a rewatch would help it.
Favorite Part: The final dance scene!
- Beauty and the Beast (aka) La Belle et la Bete, 1946 (Ben S.) Online link
Premise: A beautiful young woman takes her father’s place as the prisoner of a mysterious beast, who wishes to marry her.
This was my only foreign romance of this month! It was certainly cool to see a version of Beauty and the Beast that is closer to the original fairy tale; it had the family dynamics, the “bring me back a rose” plot, and the deal of “I’ll let you go but you have to come back within this time frame”. I liked some of the music but most of the time it was incredibly ominous, which I guess fits, but it made me wish someone else was in the house at the time I was watching it. I had a hard time liking the beast in this version; I didn’t like his speaking voice, and while he was occasionally not creepy, he often felt very creepy, and I had a hard time happily shipping them together. And while it did some good storytelling, it was also kind of confusing. Why would the beast randomly start smoking (like his BODY would start smoking)? And what in the world happened at the end with Avenant, the beast, and flying up into the air? I know it was all magical, but I felt like there needed to be SOME explanation as to why the Prince looked just like the Gaston-ish-character. And apparently we just left the brother chilling on the roof? Anyway… it had some good parts and I felt for her in her home life and I liked some of the mystical stuff… but it was a bit too weird.
Favorite Part: I liked when she was talking to her dad and describing “La Bete” in her own words; it was the only way I was actually able to see what went on in her mind and why she liked him
- Summer Stock, 1950 (Hannah) Netflix Q
Premise: A small-town farmer, down on her luck, finds her homestead invaded by a theatrical troupe invited to stay by her ne’er-do-well sister.
It seems Gene and Judy is another classic pair that I was missing out on, but it was a pleasure to finally watch one. This movie was fun, and just goes to show that this era of musicals can be quite delightful. Judy Garland has such joy when she sings, and Gene Kelly always looks like he’s having fun. Plus he has a really sincere face. The two of them look good together… although I don’t know if I think they sound good together. Judy’s singing is much stronger and louder than his, who can sing decently but has much less power. But since they gave her the main solos and him the main dance breaks, it worked out. I liked several of the songs quite nicely, but WHAT was with that stupid farmer song? Know your audience, people! There is no WAY that the people from the town who bought tickets were not offended by that! Whatever. The plot was pleasant, silly, predictable and enjoyable. I should watch some more musicals from these early decades.
Favorite Part: When Gene Kelly does his spontaneous dance on the stage with the creaky floor and the newspaper… so delightful!
- Pillow Talk, 1959 (Elizabeth) Family Video Rental
Premise: A man and a woman who share a party line cannot stand each other, but he has fun romancing her with his voice disguised.
My goodness, apparently I haven’t watched nearly enough movies with these old classic actors. I’m pretty sure this is the first Doris Day, and Rock Hudson, movie that I have sat all the way through. I’m going to need to dig up some more older films to get to know all these actors more. Anyway, I can totally get why Rock Hudson was proclaimed so charming; he’s got the sexy voice and a Cary Grant-like profile. Doris Day was also adorable and fun. The plot itself was a little frustrating mostly because I couldn’t actually understand Rock’s motivation for why he was messing with her in the first place. Was it just to mess with her? Did he want to take on a challenge? Did he think it would make her more manageable as a party line mate? I don’t know. It was fairly entertaining even if I was frustrated, and it was a good movie to watch with someone else and giggle with; it’s possible I felt he deserved a little more comeuppance than he got, but I think it worked out satisfactorily.
Favorite Part: The line “you have to be a pretty early bird to catch a worm like me”, Doris resignedly saying “officer, arrest this man” as he’s carrying her down the street, and the piano player singing directly to Rock about his lying all made me giggle.
- The Emperor Waltz, 1948 (Hannah) Online Link
Premise: A brash American gramophone salesman tries to get Emperor Franz Joseph’s endorsement in turn-of-the-century Austria.
Well this was a silly one. Bing Crosby was quite the audacious little punk in this, even if he did it in a sweet way. (I’m pretty sure my online link had his speaking voice higher than usual, which was super weird, but it didn’t seem to affect his singing.) But I liked how quickly she fell for him and decided to not even care. I liked her as a character; she was snobbish at the beginning but never really rude or mean; maybe I just thought the actress really pulled off being super classy. It had dramatic and silly moments but it was certainly fun to watch.
Favorite Part: The yodeling echo scene; also when she basically dares him to seduce her with his singing voice, so he just goes ahead and does it
- Romeo and Juliet, 1968 (Hannah) Online link
Premise: When two young members of feuding families meet, forbidden love ensues.
I have only seen one other version of Romeo and Juliet (not counting West Side Story, which is so very close but isn’t technically called Romeo and Juliet). It was the one with Leo Dicaprio. I can’t really compare them too much since I think they both probably stayed pretty close to the story and they used all of the original dialogue and everything. While Romeo and Juliet isn’t my favorite love story, if you can dispend disbelief at the insta-love (something I often have a hard time with if I feel like it’s supposed to be realistic) it can be really sweet and tragic. I thought the girl who played Juliet was adorable (although it was weird to realize that the character is 13 years old; she definitely seemed really young) and Romeo, who looked like Zac Efron, was sweet. They both had some dramatic and sobby moments, but considering how little they are and the fact that death and banishment is involved, I don’t think it’s that out of there for them to be so dramatic. Though the scene when Mercutio was dying was ridiculous; the guys just kept laughing when he was CLEARLY not able to walk and kept yelling at them and it was making me mad that they just giggled until after they announced that he was dead. Anyway, I enjoyed this version of the story, though it’s gonna take some sitting on it to decide if it stands out more to me than the previous version.
Favorite Part: When they first see each other during the dance, and the balcony scene, are both really sweet moments of their joy and young love
- A Star is Born, 1976 (Jamie Harmon) Amazon Prime
Premise: A has-been rock star falls in love with a young, up-and-coming songstress.
I’ve seen the Judy Garland version of this, but it was years ago; and I watched the Lady Gaga one last year, which I liked. This one is obviously well-cast with Streisand, who is an incredible singer and makes sense as the “whoa we just discovered her” person. I really enjoyed listening to her singing in this. However, I really did NOT like the Kris Kristofferson character. I almost never saw him as sympathetic. I didn’t see him as struggling, I just saw him as straight up not caring about things. His whole pushiness and embarrassing everyone for his own amusement at the beginning of the relationship made me go all like “I would hate dating that guy!” Plus he just acted like an idiot the whole first half and I kept yelling at him. I liked the scenes when he was writing music, but that was basically the only time I really cared about him. But I did find the ending song sung by Barbara as a tribute really moving, even if it was vocally a little blarey due to emotions. I do plan on watching the original movie and rewatching the Judy Garland version so that I can compare them all.
Favorite Part: Even though it was a ridiculously short concert, I liked when Barbara first sang in front of the audience and then they all applauded her
DISCLAIMER: This out of order movie was my romance pick from a different movie challenge on my Facebook.
- Her, 2013 (Jacob, assigned through a Flickchart movie challenge) Sister owns it
Premise: In a near future, a lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with an operating system designed to meet his every need.
This was definitely an odd movie and I was a little worried going into it. But they set up a world where it made sense and I think the way they handled it was really intriguing. Scarlett Johannsen was fantastic! Her voice was just perfect; charming, helpful, emotional, personable. It makes sense that he fell in love with her. I thought it had some really interesting story choices along the way, and I was satisfied with the final conclusion and how they handled it. It might need to sit with me still, but I think it was definitely well done.
Favorite Part: I liked her opening scene when she first shows up, and I liked hearing his letters; and although it was an incredibly awkward scene, the whole situation with the surrogate was actually really interesting and sad
- Broadcast News, 1987 (Hannah) Netflix Q
Premise: Take two rival television reporters: one handsome, one talented, both male. Add one Producer, female. Mix well, and watch the sparks fly.
This was an odd but interesting watch. I loved the opening, the look-back at each of the characters as a kid; it made me like each person right away. It also made me laugh fairly frequently in the first half of the movie, from Holly Hunter’s distress at her own awkwardness to William Hurt’s eagerness to please. It was sweet and they felt like fairly real people. But it did kind of change tone near the end; it got a bit more dramatic, though not necessarily in a bad way, but it threw me off a bit. I think I’ll have to rewatch this one in a few years because the whole movie feels different than what it started as. But I kind of liked the non-typical ending for a romance movie, and I thought it made more sense than if they had done a switch like I was dreading they would. Also, 3 Pixar stars in this movie: Jessie, Marlin, and Elastigirl!
Favorite Part: The scene where Hurt was able to hear her lines while paraphrasing them was an impressive (for me at least) and fun scene; also, “I’m just a dead lump of poured out flesh” and William Hurt’s opening scene as a child.
- Ever After, 1998 (Calista) Borrowed from Calista
Premise: The Brothers Grimm arrive at the home of a wealthy Grande Dame who speaks of the many legends surrounding the fable of the cinder girl before telling the “true” story of her ancestor.
I know I’d seen this as a very young child but I only remember bits and pieces of it, so it was really nice to get to revisit it. I was a little emotionally resistant to it because it’s one of those movies that non-rom-com girls mocked other girls for totally loving, and so I figured it was overrated. But it was a nice and fairly satisfying story for Cinderella. I appreciated that we actually saw the prince and Danielle falling in love as opposed to it just being a looks thing. I also appreciated that Danielle, while being a kind person, had more spunk than I anticipated; she wasn’t as much of a doormat as she is sometimes played as in ways that makes it unpleasant to watch. I appreciated her educated and intelligent arguments with the prince and her kindness towards the other servants. I wish the prince was a bit less of a dweeb and that she was better at telling him things when she said she was going to, but it all worked out. I also thought that the set design and costuming looked great and fairytale like.
Favorite Part: I was quite touched when Maurice reunited with his wife; I also liked when the King had an actual understanding conversation with his son
- Tuck Everlasting, 2002 (Kaitlyn) Disney+
Premise: A young woman meets and falls in love with a young man who is part of a family of immortals.
This was another one that everyone my age was really into and said was so sad and romantic but I hadn’t seen, and people who didn’t like it made fun of it. I always lumped this in with Titanic and A Walk to Remember, both of which I watched the first year of my February Romances challenge; Titanic I loved, A Walk to Remember I was much less impressed by. Tuck Everlasting was somewhere in the middle. I get the appeal of it for sure; it’s got a wispy-looking girl with a cute young guy with a funny voice and a sad backstory in an almost-enchanted woods. I felt that the transition from her being terrified of being “held hostage” to suddenly liking her new life wasn’t very believable, because the Tuck family really did a horrid job of explaining to her WHY she was being kept, and that annoyed me. But I guess it’s part of the magic of the forest. The scene where the older brother shared his story was legitimately sorrowful, and I thought her final choices worked. I was a little disappointed in Jesse that he waited almost a full century to come back and check on her and I was hoping for one of those “they said hi when she was an old lady” moments, but I don’t think it was a bad choice the way they did it, it was just a personal preference. So this one was fun and sweet and sad, but only mildly each one of those.
Favorite Part: I enjoyed the whole scene where she dances by the fire and Jesse tells her their secret and then Miles shares his story.
- A Little Bit of Heaven, 2012 (Jamie Harmon) Amazon Prime Free
Premise: An irreverent young woman who uses her humor to prevent matters from getting serious has a life-changing visit with her doctor.
I am pretty sure I have only ever watched Kate Hudson movies in February! I guess I’ll have to do this every year until I’ve seen ALL of her movies. Anyway, I feel like this is a pretty good movie but that it is somewhat misleading; the IMDB premise highlights her “humor as a defense mechanism” much higher than I think it actually was, and while the plot with Whoopi-Goldberg-Deity is fine and all, it was such a small portion of the plot that it really felt like it didn’t need to be there. The first two “wishes” hardly affected her life, I don’t think it changed her perspective enough to claim it was a major influencer in her arc, and the final “wish” would’ve probably happened anyway. Maybe I’m not giving that out-of-body experience subplot enough credit, but I just didn’t feel like it needed to be there. But despite that, I thought the movie itself was good. I really liked most of her friends and her relationships with them, and I thought it had good character moments as well as funny and sweet parts. Take out the incoherent gimmick and I’d say it was well-done.
Favorite Part: I liked the doctor trying to make jokes, and the scene right before and during the Peter Dinklage cameo
- A Silent Voice, 2016 (Hannah) Netflix
Premise: A young man is ostracized by his classmates after he bullies a deaf girl to the point where she moves away. Years later, he sets off on a path for redemption.
This movie was a good movie. It made me hate the main character and then really empathize with the main character. I was so mad at how mean he was being in the beginning, but I felt like his transition felt natural and genuine. I thought the things it did with the X’s on the faces was quite fascinating. Some of the constant going back and forth with the various side characters and their motivations/perspectives was a little confusing, and I sometimes had a hard time reading people’s facial expressions with the way it was animated. But it built up the emotions and characters in a way that worked for me by the time it got to the end, and I think it was quite good (even if his frenetic wiping away of his final tears was a bit dramatic-looking). However, I think this is incorrect that it’s a romance. I know that she tells him she likes him sometime in the middle, and it’s possible he likes her, but that didn’t feel like the focus at all; it felt like it was about friendship and personal redemption much more than any hints of romance. But at least it was a movie that I liked even if I don’t think it was a proper pick for the category.
Favorite Part: Everything that was done with the X’s.
- The Decoy Bride, 2011 (Calista) Amazon Prime
Premise: When the world’s media descend on the remote Scottish island where a Hollywood actress is attempting to get married, a local girl is hired as a decoy bride to put the paparazzi off the scent.
I enjoyed this one! I mainly watched it for David Tennant (of course) whom I have never seen in a rom com. I think the only movie I’ve seen him in is Harry Potter and the Whatever’s Whatever. (And the main chick is apparently the voice of Merida in Brave!) Anyway, it was a fun, albeit silly, watch! Both of the main characters were charming and bantery together and I giggled a fair amount in the first half of the movie. There were some parts that were a bit melodramatic (you would build less sexual tension if you would grab your clothes you’re going to change into BEFORE you decide to get undressed in the living room!), but it’s a rom com, so what can you expect? I thought it was sweet and I rooted for all of the characters to have happy endings, and they did, but they also did it in their proper order which is even better! And the Scottish accents are great.
Favorite Part: “I’m a lot hotter than I look,” followed by her total embarrassment that she said that.
- Paris Can Wait, 2017 (Maria Sager), Amazon Prime $4
Premise: The wife of a successful movie producer takes a car trip from the south of France to Paris with one of her husband’s associates.
I had a bit of a hard time completely enjoying this because I spent the whole movie being stressed about whether or not they were going to have an affair. I know there are lot of affair movies and I’ve seen plenty and even liked some with that as a premise, but I have to switch my mind over because I can’t enjoy it the same way as a rom com. That might sound a bit judgy. I did enjoy the movie, but my sister and I had to process it out loud after it was over. I didn’t know what to think of how abrupt the ending was (it probably wasn’t abrupt, it just felt like it to me)… but I decided that, based on her choice to kick French guy out the previous night, and her husband’s choice to come home and stay with her, that she and he will get better. I hope she doesn’t meet the French guy in California, but I think she demonstrated a good amount of control and caution throughout the movie, so whatever she does or doesn’t do she will or won’t do deliberately. I trust that she’ll make her own choice and not just be pulled by emotion. I think it would be better on a rewatch because then I can relax a bit more into the story, because it was an interesting movie with some sweet moments.
Favorite Part: I liked the moment when French guy points out that she doesn’t share parts of herself with her husband and she registers it as an “oh, you’re right” moment.
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, 2018 (Calista) Netflix Original
Premise: In the aftermath of World War II, a writer forms an unexpected bond with the residents of Guernsey Island when she decides to write a book about their experiences during the war.
I thought this movie had a lot of charm. Other than Marriage Story, I haven’t had a good track record so far of liking Netflix Original movies (they’ve always felt stiltedly written to me) but this one I didn’t notice at all. I liked how respectful that Juliet was of the islanders’ story, and the fact that they all kind of kept connecting with her made the developing friendships seem genuine. The storyline was unique (well, for the most part*) and sweet and I liked the characters. It was a great movie to end my month on!
Favorite Part: I enjoyed seeing their actual meetings, where they read out loud and then discussed it; her first meeting with them was great, and I liked the credits where you heard each person presenting different books and everybody’s comments about it.
-I watched 2 movies where dancing Fred Astaire falls in love with Ginger Rogers and they are almost happy but then something comes up and she runs off to get engaged to an Italian guy who loves her but she’s platonic about until Fred can straighten out the scenario and break off the engagement
-I watched 2 movies where a famous but struggling-to-write writer, who is engaged, makes their way to an island and falls in love with someone else, but they don’t kiss until the writer heads back to the mainland, officially breaks off the engagement, and then comes back to proclaim their love to the person on the island, after writing another manuscript
-8 movies had the love interests NOT end up “happily ever after” together
-4 are because one, or both, of the love interests are dead at the end
-At least 7 movies involve one or both love interests being married, engaged, or dating someone else when they fall in love (and one movie where they THINK the one they love is married)
-7 movies were musicals, or had singing/dancing as an important part of the movie (I am not counting the ball scene in Romeo and Juliet because the two of them don’t really dance together)
MY LEAST FAVORITES:
Beauty and the Beast (bizarre plot points, weird ending)
A Star is Born (main character I disliked)
A Little Bit of Heaven (premise that felt unneeded)
Paris Can Wait (tense while watching, a rewatch might help)
The Cameraman (adorable and sweet)
Summer Stock (all the happy dancing)
The Emperor Waltz (so silly but fun)
A Silent Voice (ooh, that was good)
The Decoy Bride (fun one with fun characters)
The Guernsey… (sweet and well-done)
Buster Keaton in Cameraman
Gene Kelly in Summer Stock
Joan Fontaine in The Emperor Waltz
Juliet from Romeo and Juliet
Samantha in Her
Shoya Ishida in A Silent Voice
Both MC’s in The Decoy Bride
Juliet Ashton in The Guernsey…
And that’s a wrap for my February Romance Challenge 2020!