That Hallmark-iest of holidays is bearing down on us once again, and with it, the sound of men across the nation mourning as their lady friends turn to the V-Day standard film, The Notebook. Though I bow to no one in my love for this film, even I need an alternative from time to time. Therefore, for those of you who, like me, are growing tired of the oversaturated sugary classic, I’ve decided to compile a list of off-beat alternatives that both you and your loved one may decide to make your new romantic classic. In order of my favorites:
1. When Harry Met Sally:
From the opening scene, this movie will have you laughing and sighing with relief as Noah and Allie become a distant memory. Some of you may be familiar with the infamous “fake orgasm” scene that has put men on their guard for years, however this movie is more than that. Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan star as “just friends”—the problem is, as Harry informs Sally, “men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.” The two stumble their way through various unsuccessful romances as the years drift by, yet they always seem to wind up reconnecting. This movie brings a comedic cynic and a well-meaning neurotic together to question, do soul mates truly exist? When Harry Met Sally is a comedy we can all identify with…whether we want to or not.
2. Annie Hall:
Woody Allen’s alter ego, comedian Alvy Singer, wines and dines Dianne Keaton’s Annie Hall in this classic of romance and comedy. It is a snapshot of life on the Upper East Side of New York in the late 70s, uproarious and thoughtful in equal parts. It will undoubtedly result in a bit of moisture about the eyes in its final scene. A modern masterpiece.
3. Truly Madly Deeply:
The concept of eternal love is enticing—until it actually happens. Juliet Stevenson’s Nina, grieving for her recently deceased love Jamie (played by the always great Alan Rickman), shuts herself off from all human contact. And then, one day, he returns from beyond (not as Snape, sorry Harry Potter fans). This movie is a lesson in letting go that will tug at your heartstrings and, in the end, will leave you feeling warm all over.
4. Easy Virtue:
Collin Firth; need I say more? Women love him, men want to be him. Though his screen time is limited, what is here is choice in this story of a free-spirited American woman, portrayed by Jessica Biel (whose performance proves that she is more than simply eye candy), who challenges the staid British aristocracy, brilliantly embodied by Kristen Scott Thomas. Guess who triumphs?
5. 13 Going on 30:
This one is cheesy, I know, but for those of you looking for a laid-back fun alternative to all of the more emotional rom-coms I’ve proposed, here is one that will leave you lighthearted and laughing (if slightly embarrassed). Does anyone remember being a preteen and wishing whole-heartedly for a release into adulthood? In this 2004 film, Jenna Rink, portrayed by Jennifer Garner, gets her wish. And, most importantly for our purposes, she finds love along the way.
Unfortunately, I’m not talking about the classic starring Heath Ledger, but rather the slightly more playful three-episode BBC miniseries from 2005 starring beautiful Brits David Tennant and Rose Byrne, and helmed by the man who revived the Doctor Who franchise, Russell T. Davies. Perhaps I’m biased considering Tennant is one of my all-time favorite actors, however this miniseries is full of panache and joie de vivre. Tennant portrays a scrappy but charming Casanova, a rakish character we are willing to forgive despite his numerous affairs, as he pursues his one true love, Byrne. This 18th century rom-com is perfect for those history-buff Valentines, as well as anyone who might be wooed by some of the best smooth-talking of the Romantic period.
So, for those of you who can see Twilight looming in the near future, perhaps this Valentine’s Day you could take a walk on the wild side and try out one of these wonderful films. And, if after all of your pleading that The Notebook be put on the back burner, your significant other still insists, perhaps it’s time to reconsider things before we have a case of Fatal Attraction on our hands.