Archives for Love and Romance - Page 2
The film The Enchanted Cottage (1945) shows love developing between two people based on their knowledge of one another, in direct opposition to the film Sleepless in Seattle (1993) which shows love between two people who have never even met. The latter serves to perpetuate certain fantasies that we have about romance: that there is someone out there just perfect for me, that my life will be complete once I meet him or her and, lastly, that I don’t even have to know (or get to know) this person to feel certain they are my soul-mate.
Several months before Love and Other Drugs had its theatrical release, I wrote a post about serial romantic relationship addiction on my After Psychotherapy site, inspired by the movie's title. Now that it has come out on DVD, I've had a chance actually to see it. Director Ed Zwick has given us a tale of two narcissistic people who take no trouble to hide their manipulative behavior from others but who are saved from utterly empty and selfish lives when love redeems them. Although the redemptive power of love is one of my favorite themes (see my two-part post on Groundhog Day), in this case the transformation wears the Hollywood imprint a little too heavily. As in so many romantic comedies, the happy ending feels contrived. Even so, the film has some interesting insights about what drives narcissistic people and the nature of their attachment when they fall in love. Along the way, it offers a shallow critique of Big Pharma that gets lost in the graphic sex, snappy dialog and plot twists.
I decided to revisit this film from 1989 because of its acrimonious divorce: I've been wanting to write about a particular process that sometimes occurs when a marriage falls apart, where the couple seems to be trapped in a struggle over who will emerge the "winner" and who the "loser" (I've written about this dynamic more generally elsewhere). Although The War of the Roses portrayed this dynamic, I came away from my viewing more impressed by another issue: the way some people seek to find self-fulfillment through satisfying the needs of their partners, how this strategy inevitably fails, and the kind of hatred and destructiveness that often results.
PART III (of 3 parts) Our third film, Woody Allen’s Alice, made in 1990, stars Mia Farrow. Unlike Darling or Madame Bovary, Alice becomes conscious and starts growing into her destiny with the help of her guide, Chinese herbalist Dr. Yang. Many women’s journeys end up in the same place, whether single, married, divorced, widowed, with or without children: a journey to find the particular meaning of their own life.
PART II (of 3 parts) Our second film, Madame Bovary (c.1950), is based on Flaubert’s classic 1857 novel. Jennifer Jones plays our heroine, Emma, whose overriding dream is to live out the myth of romantic love. Flaubert presents her in a compassionate light, believing her plight could be that of many women of that time, if they only had more courage to try to break free of their dissatisfaction. Emma goes through many steps in trying to find her happiness: marriage, a home, a child, self-value through her husband’s accomplishments, being attractive, having affairs and material possessions. From a young age, she had been exposed to many romantic books of the time, which fed her very active fantasy life. When Dr. Charles Bovary arrives at the family farm to tend to her father, her imagination is galvanized. She sees him as someone to rescue her, just like in the stories she grew up with. Charles assesses himself accurately as "just a country doctor, and not a particularly good one", but her need to idealize him blinds her.
PART I (of a 3-part series) Jungian analyst and author James Hollis says we can bow to our fate—acknowledge and accept what cannot be changed, our “givens” such as parents, background, conditioning, early wounding and so forth. Beyond that, we can grow into our destiny and become all that we can become. Today, long after the advent of the liberation movement, women are still seeking their destinies, both personally and in the larger world. This series of films (to be presented in three parts) describes a certain arc of female psychological evolution, mapping a part of the territory of both the individual and cultural journeys some of us may take.
The film, The Adjustment Bureau, operates under the metaphysical idea that “The Chairman” has a life plan for each of us, employing angels who make sure we stay on our pre-ordained track. Even though the film lightly touches on questions of free will, fate and destiny, what is especially noteworthy is it concludes that true love conquers all, and furthermore trumps anything else in life worth living. David Norris (Matt Damon) is an up-and-coming political hopeful who runs into dancer Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) on the eve of losing the election for a Senate seat. (We come to find out this chance meeting has been arranged by “up above” to inspire David to deliver a memorable defeat speech). Their fateful encounter has an other-worldly feel to it, a feeling of already knowing the other, which many of us recognize as love at first sight.
The movie Blue Valentine is like a Zen koan, a paradoxical riddle with no answer which encourages us to ponder things in new ways. Ostensibly this particular koan asks us to wonder about what goes wrong in love, but perhaps a more fundamental question is what is love in the first place? Some of the themes Blue Valentine explores is how much of what we call romantic love is about the reenactment of unmet needs, trauma and role modeling in our family of origin, and the possibility of growing beyond these patterns. The film moves back and forth through time, showing the beginning and ending of a relationship, inviting us to look closely at our own ideas about love.
The primary love relationship in The Kids Are All Right (2010), though between two women, is one of the more realistic cinematic portraits of a successful if flawed "marriage" of long-standing. Nic (Academy Award nominee Annette Benning) and Jules (Julianne Moore) own a home and have reared two kids together, each one bearing a child from the same sperm donor. The partners bicker and snipe, show affection and resentment, worry together over their children and try to support one another financially and emotionally. Like every successful marriage, this one has its ups and down, sustained through the most challenging moments by love, loyalty and a satisfying sex life.
To read the first part of this post, click here. Phil falls into despair and depression; his life feels empty and meaningless to him with no hope for improvement, leading him to attempt suicide. He hates himself, hates his life and wants to end it. Over and over he tries to annihilate himself, but each morning wakes to find that it's still Groundhog Day.