The Best Movie Ever: Valentine’s Day
Oh crap, it's Valentine's Day. Another year of socially enforced sentimentality and/or shame about not having a boyfriend or girlfriend. Whether you're sitting at home alone, snuggling on the couch next to your lover, or flipping through channels post-ravenous-coitus, there's a damned good chance you're going to be watching a movie. And you'll feel obliged to watch a romantic movie too, but since practically every movie has at least one romantic subplot shoved into it, narrowing your choices down can be a real bitch.
Enter The Best Movie Ever, where CraveOnline asks its film critics to decide once and for all what the best movie is in a given genre, starring a certain actor, directed by a certain director or – this week – for a specific situation. We asked William "Bibbs" Bibbiani, Professor Witney Seibold, Fred Topel and special guest Melissa Howland of We Are Movie Geeks to defend their picks for The Best Valentine's Day Movie Ever, whatever that means to them. This is what they chose.
There are few films that take place on Valentine’s Day; you can probably count them on one hand, and four of them are probably horror movies. And while I am a fan of both versions of My Bloody Valentine, it can perhaps be safely said that neither can be considered the “best” film in any top-ten-type category. As such, I will have to be a maverick and select a film that stands alone as a great romance, rather than a film that specifically celebrates the schmaltz of VD. And even selecting a good romance is a dodgy proposition, as the genre is bogged down with messy fistfuls of dumb, contrived romcoms and sticky maudlin tragedies. Finding a truly great romance is difficult, so finding a great one is a moment to treasure.
And while I could pick several greats off the top of my head (yes, Say Anything… is on the short list, no Love Story is not), I will skew personal and select a film that made my heart swell when I was in Jr. High School. Yes, I am taking the teenage girl angle. Many people haven’t heard of George Roy Hill’s 1979 film A Little Romance, or don’t tend to talk about it, other than to cite it as one of Diane Lane’s first movies, and one of Laurence Olivier’s last. A Little Romance is, however, one of the most heart-rending, beautiful halcyon romances ever made, and I would compare it favorably to Harold and Maude. Diane Lane plays an American girl going to school in Paris where she begins a stumbling and sweet romance with Daniel (Thelonius Bernard). Knowing that she must eventually return to America, and that their relationship must eventually end, the romance has that wonderfully poetic, faraway-yet-relatable eternal Jr. High quality that burns deep inside every besotted soul.
A kindly pickpocket (Olivier) tells of a tale that if young lovers sit in a gondola in Venice, and kiss under the Bridge of Sighs, their love will be sealed forever. The two youngsters run off to Venice to do just that, chaperoned only by the pickpocket. To this day, certain lovers try to do that very thing. There is no love like young love, and there is no love like first love, and here is a romance that aches with adoration, and leave a warm echo of half-remembered and glorious summer vacations, cool afternoons kissing chastely, and feeling deeply for another person for the very first time.
Valentine's Day is a holiday filled with love and romance… unless you're alone, which is why my pick for this Single Awareness Day is Better Off Dead. Not only is it a clever title, but this film has everything a girl could ever need on this fanciful day: talking food named after an 80's rock icon, sarcasm, romance, and a radical ski challenge on the slopes. I could easily go with a sappy, romantic love story like The Notebook, but I have to admit… I'm not a huge fan of it. Romantic comedies from the 80's with awkward leading men are what really make this kitten purr. (I'll deny that I said that later, so let's just leave that one alone.)
The story goes that infamous mafioso John Gotti was in the same restaurant as Rob Reiner. (Note: Rob Reiner tells this story himself.) As Reiner left the restaurant, he was approached by one of Gotti's most intimidating men, who told him, "You killed my father, prepare to die. I love that movie!"
So if you're looking for a movie to watch on Valentine's Day, The Princess Bride comes highly recommended by organized criminals, and everyone else. It has everything you could possibly want in a single movie: romance, bromance, swordfights, torture, miracles, revenge, meta humor, actual humor, rhyming, conspiracies, kidnapping, death, "mostly death," R.O.U.S.es, pirates, giants, mawiage, you name it. But there is a reason that romance must always be listed first, because all of this wonderful adventure stems from the pursuit of perfect love… and admittedly, as Wesley points out near the end of the film, also perfect breasts.
William Goldman's dashing, always quotable screenplay was adapted from his own novel, which was itself conceived of as the abridgement of a longer story with a lot more pointless stuff in it. The Princess Bride plays very much the same way, as if anything that could possibly bore you has been excised to make room for more adventure and timeless amore. A young man goes off to find his fortune, gets killed by pirates, and then returns as his own would-be killer to save his love from an evil prince, a giant, a master swordsman and Wallace Shawn. There is indeed kissing, kissing for the ages, but by the end even the most jittery of boys will want to see some smooching because The Princess Bride earns those sentimental beats. The Princess Bride offers everything to lovers, singles, the enchanted and the cynics alike. No matter what you want from a movie, it is as you wish.