Went to see a movie by myself last night, and I mean by myself. Straight up the only person in the theater. Not too surprising for a little-known indie rom-com on a Sunday night in Springfield. This means I could laugh out loud and (cry? who cried?! not me!) and scribble notes on my phone without disturbing a soul. I did catch myself making audible “oh that’s cute”-type sounds, more than once. And I sure did scribble notes. I love that feeling of “oh boy! I feel a blog post coming on!” though I feel it less and less these days…
Longtime readers of the blog know how much I loves me a good romantic comedy (and just how hard they are to come by in a post-Nora-Ephron world. Hell, even bad romantic comedies are hard to come by anymore). This little movie was a total delight. A romantic comedy that is both romantic and funny. Think When Harry Met Sally meets Garden State. Can-men-and-women-just-be-friends? meets twee twenty-somethings and a very of-the-moment soundtrack. Guys. Just sign me up.
It was refreshing to watch a movie in which not a single thing blows up—besides interpersonal drama, of course. Don’t get me wrong: I did very much love Guardians of the Galaxy. But come on, Hollywood. There is a whole world of material outside of comic books and trilogies. This was easily the best rom-com I’ve seen in a long time. Now, I don’t know whether it was actually a good movie or just happened to be what I needed right now. But I don’t think it really matters either way.
Isn’t that at least 50% of a good movie experience? The way in which it meets you in your life, wherever you are right now? It felt funny to watch this movie, now 10 years after I first watched Garden State, noticing how 20-something romance feels a little faint and distant to me. Like looking through a Facebook album from 2007, familiar but a definite glimpse into the past.
Garden State: I can still remember how I felt, sitting in Campbell 16, watching the scene when Natalie Portman and Zach Braff “shout into the abyss” (…GIANT eye roll) and then kiss in the rain (come on!) while Simon & Garfunkel play and Peter Sarsgaard (Hey, remember Peter Sarsgaard?!) looks on. I no doubt described it at the time as “heart explosion,” the pain and pure joy of the very-first moments of being in love.
10 years ago, I was 21 and starting my junior in college. Three years into an on-again, off-again relationship with my high school boyfriend, My First Real Boyfriend, the first boy I ever loved. (Yeesh. Guys. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Feelings that intense at that age…so dangerous.) At the same time, I was in the midst of the very-early stages of another romance, a friend who was an RA with me in my co-ed dorm. We shared an enthusiasm for dorky residence hall shenanigans, The Office (British version—Jim & Pam didn’t exist yet), and the Garden State soundtrack. It wouldn’t be long until he became My Second Real Boyfriend.
Those two relationship timelines collided in ways of which I am not proud, 10 years later. But that’s life and that’s love and that’s being YOUNG. Every romantic comedy has its equal share of tragedy, right?
So back to What If. Take in this little exchange, won’t you:
Wallace: In fairy tales, love inspires you to noble and courageous. But in real life, love is just an all-purpose excuse for selfish behavior.
Chantry: I don’t know if you are actually cynical or just a super-crazy romantic cheese ball.
And that, my friends, is exactly what I am. Always on the verge of an eye-roll and waiting for the shoe to drop, but with a crunchy romantic center ever-present beneath my cynical candy shell.
After the mistakes I’ve made, and the mistakes that have been made to me, it takes all my willpower not to run as fast as I can in the opposite direction from any potential happiness. Because I’ve seen the flip side of that coin. And I think it gets harder every time when things don’t go well. Because I’ve also gotten better every time; I’ve better figured out how to love and be loved. And how not to.
After a full decade of good beginnings and eventual breakups, you start to wonder whether it’s worth it to even think about trying again.
But in spite of myself, a movie like this can still make me want to, as a character says to our young hero at one point in his just-friendship with the girl he looooves, believe in the best-case scenario.
That’s why we keep watching movies like this, after all. In spite of so much evidence to the contrary (lookin’ at you, Katherine Heigl), every once in a while, one turns out to be just exactly what you need.