BRINGING YOU THE BEST IN ROMANCE FICTION
Hollywood releases highly anticipated films at the end of the year. It’s a competitive time, with Oscar nominations so close at hand. If you haven’t been interspersing your holiday vacation with trips to the movies, you might want to wait to read this article. I’ll try to avoid the biggest spoilers, but have some thoughts about the slate of films released in December 2016: La La Land, Rogue One, and Passengers.
First, American films do an excellent job of filling films with beautiful people. Pairing up Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt for Passengers, about a couple awakened too early on a space colonizing ship with only each other for company, sounds excellent on paper. They’re both attractive, charming and funny. Romance lovers can’t help but see that combination and think Awesome!
I don’t know if you’ve already heard the mutterings, but while the casting was excellent a giant plot hole (I don’t want to call it anything more specific and spoil it for you) derails our actors. In fact, Jennifer Lawrence’s excellent acting makes it impossible to overlook the unfairness of it all, no matter how hard Chris Pratt works his Guardians of the Galaxy-proven caddish charm. It could have been a good film, if it had been more honest. Instead, they tack on a Hollywood ending that brings our couple together. [Spoiler: She was screaming about how she’d been murdered just prior to the movie’s big climax. I don’t care how much tension, fear, and relief there was, that wasn’t something to just get over.] I’m a writer, so of course I’ve gone over in my mind what better ways they could have handled it, and the story it could have been. I’m sad that someone, the writer? producer? PR? decided we needed our tidy ending.
If you want a film that also features an attractive couple — with the pairing of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, who worked so well together in Crazy, Stupid, Love in 2011 — then turn to La La Land, which finally went into wide release on December 25th after a limited release. I assume they did this in anticipation of the Oscar race, and because marketing a modern day musical with unconventional moments requires word-of-mouth to build interest. I haven’t heard a bad word about this movie, even from people who don’t love musicals. And the ending, in contrast to Passengers, remains true to the film. See it to find out how much anticipation and drama can go into hand-holding. (*happy sigh*)
It wouldn’t be right not to mention the biggest release of the season, Rogue One. While I realize it isn’t marketed even slightly as a romance (and I give thanks for that), you’ve surely heard about this film. I give it credit for not falling back on ensuring there’s a token romance just to round things out, without paying attention to the quality of that romance. Too many films mark checkboxes to appeal to the most theater-goers. Rogue One is being highly successful, while being just the film it needs to be: a story of the downtrodden and ragged fighting back against incredible odds against the enormous power of The Empire. Here they don’t shrink from the ending.
If you’re someone who likes endings that aren’t necessarily what you anticipated, check out two other releases from this year. Doctor Strange doesn’t rely on the same climactic battle that Marvel seemed to have perfected. Arrival lays a sweet twist on the story that makes the journey more powerful.