Like an avenging angel wrapped in red cellophane, Valentine’s Day is back to remind us all that we should be better lovers. You know what, Valentine’s Day? F*ck you and the Whitman’s Sampler you rode in on. Here are 20 reasons why nobody should bother with romance this February 14.
1. The Talented Mr. Ripley
Ripley is a great movie, but it’s long on suspense and deception and short on romance. Ripley connives and insinuates his way through a whole gaggle of actual and imagined romantic partners – both female and male – and even those who manage to survive to the final reel are most assuredly a bit more guarded after dating him. Side note: did you realize that the guy that Ripley romances and then murders is Derek from Smash? Seriously, one of the best casts ever assembled, and also Gwyneth Paltrow.
2. Looking for Mr. Goodbar
Anti-romance, anti-feminist, and anti-gay, Goodbar is the cinematic equivalent of being forced to eat the contents of a dirty ashtray. Diane Keaton plays a teacher for deaf kids who takes advantage of the swinging seventies singles scene to meet and bang as many guys as she can – and good for her, no judgments here. If only the film had the same live-and-let-live attitude – instead, it has her brutally murdered by a gay guy (played by Tom Berenger) who has just been bashed at a Pride parade and is trying to turn himself straight by sleeping with a woman. (He can’t perform, so he flips out and cuts her to bits. Who hasn’t been there, eh fellas!?). A lovely message for men and women everywhere: Don’t ever leave the house again!
3. Another Gay Movie
Sure, Another Gay Movie wasn’t setting out to be a romance – it was trying to emulate bawdy sex comedies like American Pie and Porky’s, but for a gay audience. Thing is, those movies were actually funny, and they did manage to fit some romance in between pastry-bangings and weenie-pulls. Here, there is a glimmer of an actual love story between two of the guys, but it’s overshadowed by disgusting gross-out gags, unlikable characters, and general unfunniness.
4. The Shape of Things
You could justifiably put every Neil LaBute movie on this list, but The Shape of Things makes the cut because not only does it feature LaBute’s standard dosage of flagrant misanthropy, but it also dares to pick on Paul Rudd. In Things, Rudd meets the girl of his dreams (Rachel Weisz, perfectly cast), an artist who then proceeds to give him a head-to-toe makeover. In the end, it turns out that it was all a giant art project about how pathetic and willing we all are to give all of ourselves in the name of love. What. A. Bitch.
Kissed is one weird-ass movie – but it’s better than you might expect a romantic drama about necrophilia to be. The always watchable Molly Parker stars as Sandra, a woman in mortuary school who has a thing for sleeping with corpses. A fellow student falls hard for her, and when he discovers the truth about her sexual and emotional proclivities – SPOILER ALERT – he commits suicide so that she can finally love him completely. GAH.
6. Swimming with Sharks
One of the better Hollywood satires out there, Sharks is also extremely cynical (as they most are), allowing its hero to choose his career over love in the most fatal possible way. (Sorry, Michelle Forbes!) Fun fact: the evil boss, Buddy Ackerman (played by Kevin Spacey) is allegedly based on gay superproducer Scott Rudin – which is funny, considering that in this storyline his character is actively trying to sleep with his assistant’s girlfriend.
7. War of the Roses
The ultimate anti-romance, War of the Roses manages to be both extremely dark and screamingly funny as it documents the decline and fall of the marriage of the well-to-do Roses (Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner). Sure, there’s pate that may be made of the family dog and all sorts of injuries to person and property, but the most horrible thing about this story is that after all the fighting and the abuse, the Roses actually come to a meeting of the minds and hearts… and then are immediately killed by a chandelier. The message? Even if you do manage to work things out, it will probably be too late anyway. Woof.
8. Revolutionary Road
Lucky for us, this was a pretty terrible movie – and because of that it’s not half as emotionally engaging as the book it’s based on, which is positively devastating. In it, we watch a bright-eyed young couple (Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet) move to the suburbs and slowly start to unravel, leading to lots of tears and betrayal and anguish and an eventual untimely death. Because suburbs.
9. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Good God does this movie have relationship issues… both its reigning Alpha Couple, George and Martha (Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor) and its newbies, Nick and Honey (George Segal and Sandy Dennis) could each use about a decade of couple’s therapy. Fortunately for us, this film condenses all this therapy into one booze-soaked evening of laughs, fights, and “games”. Of course, the fact that Burton and Taylor were married – for the first of two times, mind you – when the film was made only adds to the utter f*cking insanity that is this film.
10. Play Misty for Me
Essentially copied decades later in Fatal Attraction, this dated but lurid shocker from Clint Eastwood (making his directorial debut) far outshines its imitators by offering us the unforgettable image of Lucille Bluth (okay, a young Jessica Walter) – SPOILER ALERT! – being thrown off a cliff by Dirty Harry. Very unpleasant stuff, especially considering that Eastwood’s character – with whom Walter’s becomes murderously obsessed – is such a jerkwad.
11. The Paperboy
Or, if you prefer, Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy. This pulpy neo noir does everything in its power to turn our stomachs, from having Zac Efron get peed on by Nicole Kidman to having Kidman simulate fellatio in front of a room full of prisoners to having Matthew McConaughey pay strapping straight men to rape him and cut up his face. It’s all super-vile, but the vilest part of all is the mind-boggling romance between Kidman’s death row groupie character and the imprisoned murderer played by John Cusack, who is a sweaty pile of trash. Their violent, prolonged sex scene on a pink washing machine is something that I will never be able to unsee, try through I might.
12. Bitter Moon
An agonizing look at love and resentment from Roman Polanski, Bitter Moon meticulously charts the trajectories of two couples – Kristin Scott Thomas/Hugh Grant and Peter Coyote/Emmanuelle Seigner – who meet on a cruise ship and share their secrets. As codependence and cruelty are escalated to outlandish, queasy heights, the film’s cautionary message comes into focus – but not in time for a few of its doomed characters. This movie may actually be the worst thing that could happen to you on a cruise ship, and that is saying a lot – no joke, I actually know someone who filed for divorce immediately after seeing this movie.
13. All About Steve
Aren’t stalkers funny?! No, Razzie-winning Sandra Bullock, they are not.
14. Requiem for a Dream
Love conquers all, right? WRONG. This movie set out to prove that addiction is stronger than any human connection. It makes a very strong case, with the help of electroshock, amputation, and a massive, Crisco-slathered double-ended… well, you get the picture.
15. Rosemary’s Baby
Poor Rosemary (Mia Farrow) – not only is her relationship with her husband a lie, but everything else is, too. What makes this film so profoundly unromantic is that it exposes insidious deceits behind nearly every kind of basic comfort: marriage, children, medicine, neighbors, and an amazing apartment in the Dakota. If even real estate is going to break your heart, what’s the point of living?
16. He’s Just Not That Into You
Well, the title kind of says it all, doesn’t it? In this case, I kind of feel like moviegoers got what they deserved, which was a movie made of actual garbage.
17. New Year’s Eve
Okay, maybe the similarly-scented Valentine’s Day is more suited to the occasion, but I didn’t have the guts to actually see it. But for some reason I did find myself dragged to this steaming heap of guano, in which the looming Times Square ball-drop serves as a harbinger for an impending apocalypse that can only be diverted if any two characters in the movie demonstrate even the tiniest glimmer of legitimate romantic chemistry with one another before Ryan Seacrest counts down to zero. Sadly, they fail, and the world is plunged into eternal darkness. At least I think that’s what I remember happening…
18. The Great Gatsby
Aside from resting on the rather overplayed conceit that “rich people are basically evil” (true, but booooring), Baz Luhrman’s feature-length jazz-age migraine also made its central lovers completely uninteresting and then buried them under a mountain of fancy dress shirts. No amount of Charlestoning could save this doomed romance, or this colossally awful movie.
19. Blue Valentine
This is one of the few movies on this list that actually goes out of its way – in scene after flagrantly manipulative scene – to make you nauseous at the thought of two people being in a relationship. We follow what are essentially the film’s only two characters (played beautifully by Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling) as they meet, date, fall in love, start a family, and spend the rest of their lives taking emotional chainsaws to one another. As the gorgeous, haunting song from the all-Grizzly Bear soundtrack that plays over the exhilarating footage of fireworks in the closing credits says, “You are my alligator.” And who the hell wants to sleep with an alligator?!
20. Brokeback Mountain
Okay, before you start whipping me with a cowboy shirt, let me say that I do find Brokeback to be romantic in parts, and overall I think it’s a beautifully sad portrait of a love affair that happened at the wrong place at the wrong time. But despite its few moments of joy and the heartstring-obliterating performances of its amazing leads (Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger), it is hard to deny that it is, at the end of the day, a complete f*cking bummer. Brokeback is amazing because it makes you want to fall in love, but then tells you precisely what might happen when you do: namely, you spend a lifetime living a lie and never fully connecting with the person you love, and then find yourself either alone in a closet crying into a denim shirt, or at the business end of a tire iron. Ask yourself: was it all worth it for a night of clumsy sex in a tent? Without lube? (Okay, it totally was.) Nearly a decade later, we still wish we knew how to quit these two.
Those are our picks for the 20 flicks most likely to sour your Valentine’s Day. Any suggestions that we missed? Share ’em in the comments!