His & Hers
Date night can be a tricky thing when it comes to movie selection. Either she’ll beg him to see a sappy romantic comedy or he’ll drag her through the latest bro-fest comic book movie. Rest assured, there are quality films out there that appeal to both men AND women equally. These movies have strong cross appeal and staying power far beyond their narrative stories. They generate conversation and spirited debate about the characters’ intentions and motivations long after the film has ended. Who was absolutely wrong in the relationship? Who was in the right? Often times it’s not always so black and white. Unfortunately, when it comes to depicting complicated modern relationships on screen, the Hollywood formula is. It regresses into basically two camps: either the guy has to save the hapless beauty from her inner despair, or jump through enough obstacles to win her back as penance for his past mistakes. Well I’m here to shake up trite thinking and highlight five films that break this boring binary.
1. Annie Hall (1977) – dir. Woody Allen
Woody Allen’s finest film in his prolific career and one of the best American comedies of all time, Annie Hall is everything you want from a romance – tenderness, humor, genuine connection – mixed with everything found in a tragedy – neurosis, disillusionment, heartbreak. Once a real-life couple, Keaton and Allen have undeniable chemistry and her charm paired with his wit create an intense feeling that the two were destined, and ultimately doomed, to be together.
What He’ll Like: Alvy’s insecure, hyper-aware takedowns of romantic tropes
What She’ll Like: The moments when Annie is trying to break Alvy out of his comfort zone
2. Punch-Drunk Love (2002) – dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
Before he went off the rails with ridiculous career choices, Adam Sandler did something no one was expecting from him back in 2002: he signed onto a dramatic film to play a straight-faced character. Credit must go to Paul Thomas Anderson who did the near-impossible in casting Sandler; he took the regular funnyman and turned him into the type of relatable schlub that audiences love to root for. Credit also goes to Sandler himself, who pulls off the role of Barry Egan with the right amount of quiet frustration and surprising heft. Although he is almost unrecognizable today as the comedy juggernaut that he once was, Punch-Drunk Love was probably Sandler at the height of his powers – proving that he could match his laughs with serious acting chops.
What He’ll Like: The phone-sex hotline operator’s scheme and the pudding/frequent-flyer miles loophole
What She’ll Like: Barry’s transformation from a meek, lonely loser to confident and loyal lover
3. Intolerable Cruelty (2003) – dir. Joel & Ethan Coen
I’m on the record as saying that unhinged George Clooney is the best George Clooney. Whenever he gets the chance to play the smiling buffoon, he does so with panache and grace. Intolerable Cruelty is Clooney at his wackiest and most glib. Couple that beguiling charm with a Coen Brothers script and the magnetic presence of Catherine Zeta-Jones, you get instant magic. Almost a satirical harp on the entire notion of marriage, Intolerable Cruelty is the funniest and most romantic divorce movie ever, if one exists.
What He’ll Like: The “Massey pre-nup”
What She’ll Like: Marylin’s hilarious manipulation of the love blind men in her life
4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) – dir. Michel Gondry
Anyone familiar with Charlie Kaufman-penned films knows better than to expect a straightforward plot grounded in reality. Anyone who knows director Michel Gondry, similarly, can expect childlike set design peppered with twee emotions. Eternal Sunshine… is the perfect hybridization of these two sensibilities. Think if When Harry Met Sally and Inception had a baby. Similar to Adam Sandler’s entry above, Jim Carrey (typically known for his crazy antics and twisty facial contortions) wears the role of Joel Barish with his heart on his sleeve and convinces us that he’s feeling true sorrow about how his relationship turned out using just the emotions on his face.
What He’ll Like: The memory erasing plotline and visual gags
What She’ll Like: Clementine’s free spiritedness
5. Edge of Tomorrow (2014) – dir. Doug Liman
Audiences are accustomed to Tom Cruise playing the action hero. He runs, fights, shoots and eventually saves the day from the evildoers. Except in Edge of Tomorrow, he’s the one that needs saving. Cruise plays Bill Cage, a cowardly public relations officer with no combat experience who is thrown into the midst of an extraterrestrial battle for Earth’s survival. He quickly dies on the battlefield but little does he know that he accidentally acquired the ability to wake up the previous morning after every death. This jettisons him to meeting with Rita Vrataski, the most skilled and decorated solider the human side has, and down a path to becoming not just an effective fighter, but one who can tip the scale of the entire war in the army’s favor.
What He’ll Like: The clever, borderline comical resets of Cage’s deaths.
What She’ll Like: Rita as the “Full Metal Bitch”