Yet Another Top 5 Most Underrated Romantic Movies of All Time

Diving straight to the point to save some time and energy. 

1) Stage Beauty
I love movies that are set in a different era. Watching them is like time travel and the probable reason why I hated Marie Antoinette (the one with Kirsten Dunst). Anyway, Stage Beauty is a well-acted and nicely scripted movie. It stars Billy Crudup and Claire Danes in central roles. Set in the 17th century, the movie is about theatre politics. Women, in that era, were not allowed to perform on stage. Hence, men took over and played the female characters. One person who wants to change it all is Maria (Danes), who has a passion for performing on stage. In the process, she manages to anger Ned (Crudup) who is famed as the stage beauty of the day.

    What I love about the movie?

Apart from the script, it’s the crackling chemistry between the leads that makes me go all gooey inside. It’s therefore, not a surprise that Crudup and Danes actually started dating after the movie was completed.

A special mention of the scene where their chemistry is sizzling enough to set the temperatures soaring.

Stage beauty

2) Inventing the Abbotts

Another movie set in a different era. Another movie starring Billy Crudup. Another movie about love. You get the picture, don’t you?

It’s the 1950s, and two brothers Jacey (Billy Crudup) and Doug (Joaquin Phoenix) are in love. The Abbott sisters are pretty and wealthy and out of both Jacey’s and Doug’s league. But they do fall in love and complications arise.

    What I love about the film?

While it’s essentially a movie about love, Inventing the Abbotts is not just about matters of the heart. It’s a brilliant commentary on the social mores of that period when love was dictated by social standards. It’s also about control and freedom. Take the three sisters, for instance. One’s a rebel, bent on bringing shame to the family; the other one is too meek to give up her own life; the third one is the more practical and sensible of the lot.

And I like movies about misfits. Joaquin Phoenix and Liv Tyler are cutely weird and I’m sure you too would root for them.

Inventing the abbotts

3) Tristan + Isolde
I’m usually not a big fan of epic romances. They are always so melodramatic and predictable, but in this case I made an exception because I adore James Franco.

So the story isn’t path breaking. The handsome warrior meets and falls in love with the princess, who returns his affections (who wouldn’t?). But when it comes to choosing between love and honor, there is heartbreak, pain and tears. The two, do get back together and what follows is more heartbreak, pain and tears. It was supposed to be a tragic love story, but I can’t claim I was moved to tears.

    What I love about this film?

Despite what I said, there’s still so much to like this movie. The music is well suited to the mood and Rufus Sewell is great as always. Plus, there’s James Franco. I only wished they had found someone who had a better chemistry with him.

P.S. Henry Cavill stars in a small role too.

tristan

4) Ladies in Lavender

There’s something really special about a movie that attempts to tell a story in a really simple manner. In the process, it becomes a far more poignant tale than the pretentious movies that shamelessly manipulate our emotions. Ladies in Lavender is a master class in simple storytelling.

Two aging sisters find a young man washed ashore near their house. Over the next few days, they nurse him back to health and discover he’s a violinist from Poland. The younger sister eventually falls in love with him. But by the time the movie ends, it’s back to normal routine life for the two spinsters.

    What I love about the film?

A movie that stars Maggie Smith and Judi Dench has brilliance written all over it. Every dialogue, every movement and every gesture seems so natural that you’d forget you’ve been watching a movie. Big props to Daniel Bruhl, too, for holding it against these two powerful actresses. His vulnerability, innocence and naturalness prove why he’s such a wonderful actor.

Oh! And I did shed a few tears by the time the credits rolled in.

ladies in lavender

5) Room with a View

Maggie Smith and Judy Dench, again. How I love these two!

Based on a book written by E.M. Forster, Room with a View is about a young woman trapped in a world of proprietary and archaic customs. Imagine this. If an unmarried couple is found kissing, they would have to be married! Where’s Henry Cavill when you need him?

Anyway, the young girl is played to perfection by Helena Bonham Carter. I couldn’t believe how young she was, before all the eccentricity started. The man she’s in love with is played by Julian Sands. They have a nice chemistry and the supporting cast is good too.

    What I love about this movie?

As much as I cringe to admit, my best moment from the movie was this scene. Love how dreamy the guy sounds and how perfect the moment is. After all the struggles and turbulences, Lucy and George are finally in the world of their own. A world where they can look outside, without feeling the pressures of society tying them down. It could have been very mushy, but turned out differently.

room

So here you go. 5 underrated romantic movies that you should catch, if you haven’t already.

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4 Wonderful Movies that You May not Have Heard About

Sometimes it’s really hard to decide what you want to watch. I usually do a random Google search, find some options, weigh each on Imdb and then take a call. Sometimes it’s a very bad decision and I end up wasting a couple of precious hours of my life. Other times, I stumble upon movies that few would have probably heard about.

So to make your life a little easier, I have compiled this list. If you are bored, alone and confused, try one of these.

Ladies of Lavender
I watched this movie for the first time when I was in college. Truth be told, I had very little idea about Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. Plus the movie was a little slow. Anyway as I started watching it, I found myself in the world inhabited by its central characters. 2 elderly sisters live in a picturesque little village where they have hardly anything to do. Till of course, something happens that changes their lives. The change is brought upon by a young man who’s washed ashore. The sisters take him in, nursing him back to health and what follows is a series of love, heartbreak and epiphany.

Swimming with the Sharks

A really smart movie about office politics, ambition and greed. This one stars one of my all-time favorites, Kevin Spacey in the leads and as usual he is superb. It’s especially interesting if you have watched and liked American Beauty as much as I did. Here Spacey is a far cry from the character he played in American Beauty. He’s instead much like the character he played in Horrible Bosses.

Thank You For Smoking

If you love dark humor, you gotta watch this one. It’s not every day you come across a smart comedy that doesn’t take you for granted. Smart dialogues, a tight screenplay and a GREAT performance from Aaron Eckheart makes this one a must watch if you enjoy sarcasm.

Room with a View
Now if you love romantic movies, you might have watched this one. Though most people I know haven’t. Anyway this one is based on a novel by E.M. Forster. It provides a great insight into how society has evolved over the years. Back when women were supposed to marry for a better future and not necessarily love. Or when rigid rules confined women to the four walls. People still fell in love but not everybody had the guts to follow their heart. Luckily in this one, they do!

Top 5 Romantic Foreign Films

Inspired by the number of hits I got for my post on Top 5 Most Underrated Romantic Movies, I’ve decided to write about top foreign language romantic movies that you may/may not have heard about.

Ready? Here you go!

Priceless (French)

Here’s a typical feel-good romcom that has all the trappings of the genre I’m honestly not too fond of. And, yet this movie makes it to this list. I’ll tell you why. Actually my problem with romantic comedies is their over-the-top and often not-so-funny humor. Plus, their plots are usually improbable and even laughable. Their done-to-death treatment of inane situations is so clumsy that I watch them when I struggle to fall asleep. An example? Two good looking people who are obviously meant to be together, do not seem to know that until the climax!

Anyway, before I turn this post into a romcom bashing article, let me talk about this ‘priceless’ movie. It’s essentially about a hooker and an enchanted bartender who she mistakes for a billionaire. After realizing who he really is, the girl quickly turns him away while the guy keeps chasing her. As the story moves forward, the guy does some rather unthinkable things just in hope of winning her over. She rebuffs his attempts but in the end she (of course) falls in love with him.

What to love about this film:

– Gad Elmaleh’s character is the one to root for. He’s gawky, shy and even stupid. Yet, you want him to win. His gradual transformation into a somewhat suave young man made me smile. And of course, I asked myself why can’t I meet a man like him!
– It’s a genuinely funny film. Watch out for the scene where Audrey Tautou tutors Gad to manipulate his mistress. Or the one where Gad pretends to be a wealthy heir.
– Love the way Audrey Tautou dresses! She’s such a fine looking woman with some serious acting chops.

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House of the Flying Daggers (Chinese)

I like the idea of two people falling in love in just 2 days. The cynic in me tells me it’s wildly impossible. But a part of me wants to believe in it and that’s why I love this movie. Set in 859 AD, this wuxia film stars Andy Lau, Zhang Ziyi and Takeshi Kaneshiro in main roles. The story is quite simple. Zhang Ziyi, a blind dancer is arrested on the suspicion of being a member of the Flying Daggers. The Flying Daggers are up against the establishment and a police officer comes up with a plan to nab them. The plan involves another officer winning over the trust of Zhang Ziyi by setting her free from the prison and then following her through the woods to apprehend the Flying Daggers.

It’s not difficult to guess that they fall in love and there’s a change in plans. There’s a twist. But I’m not going to spoil it here. You can find out when you watch the movie.

What to love about this film:

– The movie has been shot exceptionally well. Watch out for the brilliant use of colors in the final scene. It’s hard to get out of the mind.
– The sexual tension that builds up between Zhang Ziyi and Takeshi Kaneshiro. I can’t reveal the plot, but can tell you that you will be surprised!
Takeshi Kaneshiro! He has a die-hard fan in me!

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The Japanese Wife (Bengali/Indian)

There’s something truly special about this simple film. Apart from the brilliant performances of all actors, it is one of those rare films that just tell the story. There’s no judgment, no illusions, no manipulations to evoke emotions. It’s simply a story about a poor teacher living in rural Bengal (India) who marries his Japanese pen-friend. They never meet, never see each other, yet theirs is a kind of love that is so hard to find these days.

Despite no assurances of a possible union, Snehomoy and Miyagi are devoted to each other. So, even the idea of considering a prospective match is out of question for Snehomoy. I love how his unwavering loyalty to his ‘wife’ eventually convinces his aunt that her beloved nephew will never really marry anybody else. Over the course of time, the sleepy remote village where they live also comes to accept a Japanese bride who has never set a foot there.

What to love about this film:

– This movie re-affirmed my faith in love that knows how to set itself free. I know plenty of couples who’ve been with each other for years. And yet, all that’s left between them is a façade of normalcy. Snehomoy and Miyagi, on the other hand, are refreshingly real.
– Snehomoy is the archetypal Bangali Bhodrolok (Bengali gent). He is educated yet unambitious. He has no set plans for future, yet there is no angst. He doesn’t deride his aunt for trying to find him a wife. Instead, he quietly internalizes his feelings.
– The simplicity of the film is its beauty. There’s no rush, the movie progresses at a leisurely pace while soaking you in.

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Let the Right One in (Swedish)

The miserable Twilight series has turned me so completely against vampire movies that when I heard about this one, I cringed. Another migraine-inducing vampire flick, I thought. But somehow I was coaxed into watching it, and boy am I glad?

This sensitive tale of a vampire and a 12 year old boy is set in 1981. Oskar meets Eli one day and their lives change. Eli is his only friend and he soon falls in love with her. After he discovers who she really is, he gets closer to her and their bond gets stronger.

What to love about this film:
– Two lonely kids who discover friendship and love. Need I say more?
– Brilliant cinematography. A quick note, by the way. The chilling conditions outside seem to correlate with the coldness of the hearts of those around Oskar and Eli.

oiuy

Camila (Spanish/Argentinian)

Camila is a passionate tale of forbidden love, guilt and separation. To be honest, it is not one of the most romantic movies I’ve watched. No, not by any stretch of imagination. Yet, I’m including it in this list because it touches upon several themes that make it a good watch. Also if you are a sucker for romantic tragedies, I’m quite sure you’re going to like it.

The story is set in the early 19th century. Free-spirited Camila comes from an aristocratic family. She falls in love with a young priest (Fr. Ladislao) who initially rejects her but later gives into his feelings for her. Back in those days, such love was unacceptable. So the two flee and hope to build a new life away from societal pressures. They live in bliss at first but Ladislao is later consumed by feeling of guilt for abandoning his duties. They are captured and mercilessly executed.

What to love about this film:

– Doomed lovers have always captured the imagination of die-hard romantics. Ladislao and Camila are star-crossed lovers whose tragic story will pull the strings of your hearts
– The fact that the movie is based on real people makes it all the more tragic. Under Juan Manuel de Rosas’ tyrant rule, the young couple was subjected to numerous hardships. Camila was barely 23 and eight months pregnant when she was executed by the firing squads.

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Top 5 Most Overrated Romantic Films

Romance is one emotion that has been time and again exploited and over-exploited in cinema. Hollywood, in particular, takes the cake. I, for one, firmly believe that many of these ‘romantic sagas’ are manipulative and pretentious. To defend myself here, let me discuss 5 goody-goody films that are generally loved by most people (especially women) but not by me.

5. Maid in Manhattan

Okay, IMDB shows a rating of 4.8 for this lousy film, which is good news because I think I am not the only one who thought this movie totally sucked.

The plot is about a charming politician played by Ralph Fiennes who befriends a maid working at a classy hotel in Manhattan. The maid (your proverbial damsel in distress) is a poor single mother. They fall in love, (the guy by the way, doesn’t know about her occupation and mistakes her for someone else. Read: A rich socialite.) The guy, the girl and her young son become a happy family until her charade is over. How it all ends? I think you must have guessed it by now.

If the story reminds you of Cinderella, it’s simply because the makers of this movie obviously had no creative talent. To make it more soppy, they got Jennifer Lopez to play the lead (you know getting brownie points from the Hispanic community). Every scene of this movie reeks of manipulation and that makes it a terrible watch. And, JLo cannot act. Period.

Boring, boring, boring

4. A Walk to Remember

Another tear-jerker this one. To be honest, I did shed a few tears while watching this movie. Cancer, pain, death. Well, I am human, of course. But unlike my friends who seem to think of it as some sort of modern day classic, I thought this movie is plain ridiculous and again manipulative.

It’s essentially a high school romance about this really spoilt kid who’s punished to join a drama club. Since he’s too cool to join any goddamn drama club whose members are all dorks, he’s really obviously pissed off. Then comes the girl (the goody goody girl) in oversized clothes trying her best to look ordinary and boring. She’s ridiculed by the cool kids but is too kind to take offence. Turns out she is the daughter of a reverend, has never been kissed and believes in God. While preparing for a school play, the guy spends more time with her and ‘surprisingly’ falls in love (who would’ve thought that, huh?) We get to know she’s not that boring and has some secret wishes (nothing kinky here, okay?)

Everything’s fine until one day the girl tells the guy that she has cancer and time’s running out. Poor chap is devastated and how he fulfills her wishes before she dies forms the rest of the story. Some people call it a coming-of-age movie (obviously they haven’t heard of the Graduate). To me, it’s so lame that even Mean Girls looks Oscar worthy when you compare the two. First of all, the way the girl breaks it to the guy that she’s dying is one of the most god-awful scenes in the history of mankind. It’s like you are in the middle of a date when you casually remark that you’re lactose intolerant. It’s really casual and quite unfair for the guy. Then, the girl! She’s a one-dimensional, lousy character who can do no wrong. Sorry, but I am not too fond of pious angels in movies, especially when the movie is set in the 2000s and in not some little village in Eastern Europe or the Middle East. Doesn’t fly! Even the guy’s reckless behavior is blamed on the broken home he comes from (again a stereotype). In short, no character development.

It’s basically one of those sweet movies that make you feel a little diabetic in the end.

3. Dirty Dancing

I have watched this movie many times for the moves. But I’ve never quite understood why many people think it’s a wonderful romantic film. Yes, there’s a romantic track (every movies has it) but that doesn’t make it a romantic saga, right?

More than anything, watch it for Patrick Swayze’s moves. Loved the way he looks and glides on the dance floor. But the romantic track is really, really overrated. The story is narrated by the lead who comes from an affluent family on their way to a fancy resort. She is shy, intelligent and kind. In the resort, she meets the poor hunk (Swayze) who’s the dance instructor. They fall in love and that pretty much sums up the story.

Now the problem with this movie is that it paints all its characters in black and white. The noble doctor, the girl with a golden heart, the shallow sister or the evil hotel owner. You don’t have to spend too much time on deciding who’s what. Plus, the leading lady Jennifer Grey is not easy on the eyes. She’s neither pretty nor charming. Her hair, nose, eyes, everything is less than ordinary and to think she’s paired opposite someone as good looking and charming as Swayze! Not fair on her, I guess.

Enough with Baby and her corner!

2. Silver Linings Playbook

Everyone has his/her take on movies that didn’t deserve an Oscar. This movie is mine. Apart from Jennifer Lawrence (who’s definitely among the most talented actors of our times), there’s truly nothing going for this movie. Not even the romance.

Talking about its plot is also a tiring exercise. The guy (Bradley Cooper) has come back from some rehab where he struggles to fit in with his own family. He wants reunite with his ex-wife and in the process meets a sex addict (Lawrence). The two get closer and participate in a dance competition, where they must score 5 or more (Exactly why, I can’t remember).

The problem with this movie is there’s no element of surprise. You know how it’s all going to end. The guy will end up with the woman and honestly, the dance competition bit is something we’ve all watched. The leads look good together but there’s not much focus on their chemistry. Rather, the director put his fingers in too many pies. Racial attacks, poverty, family disintegration. Blah, blah, blah.

In one word, Overrated!

1. P.S. I Love You

There are basically two types of people in the world. Those who love P.S. I Love You and those who don’t. Never came across an indifferent person who has watched this movie and hasn’t made up his/her mind yet.

Now why do I hate it? Maybe, it will be easier if I put that it points.

1)     As I mentioned with A Walk to Remember, I detest stories that exploit loss and death. This movie does that, every scene, every dialogue is aimed at making people feel sad and terrible.

2)     So, the guy dies and wants his woman to move on. Great! But with every letter, doesn’t he try to do the exact opposite? You keep reminding how wonderful you were together or how you met in the first place and still expect her to move on? A tad difficult.

3)     I have no problems with Gerard Butler. But I’ve met many people who’ve loved it simply because of his accent and good looks. Of course, it’s hard to come to terms with the death of such a good looking husband. Would it not have been better if a regular guy was playing the character? Someone not so charming or good looking. An ordinary guy who could still leave an impression and make audience think why the woman is not capable of moving on after his death?

4)     Hilary Swank. Give her a Million Dollar Baby, but NOT a mushy love story, please! She looked odd, acted weird and honestly seemed just wrong for the role. Case in point, watch her in the scene where she first meets Butler. It has the most awkward kiss in the history of mankind and it’s quite evident she is confused.

Everything said and done, I don’t have any problems with it. I just don’t understand how people can go all crazy with this movie, that’s it. It doesn’t strike a chord with me and I am happy to admit I am not a fan.

Greatest love story? Really???

Top 5 Most Underrated Romantic Movies

I am a sucker for romance. But unlike most women I know, I am not that into sappy romcoms. So, no P.S. I love you or Katherine Heigl movies for me (god bless Gerard Butler and Katherine Heigl though). 

What I really love watching are movies that are about regular people like me. Plain Janes and Regular Harrys who may not necessarily be the most ridiculously good looking people around. In my quest to find movies that are about simple/believable/feel good romances, I have stumbled upon quite a few gems that most of my friends at least had not heard about earlier. If you too enjoy watching a nice little movie that fills your heart with joy, here is a list of 5 really romantic movies that you may/may not have seen.

1. Signs (2008)

I have this theory that after you cross your 25th year and resign yourself to the office-home routine, you start taking an interest in office romances. Well, in my case at least this has been true. I love 500 days of summer and find all the characters very relatable. A movie in a similar vein is Signs. With a running time of just 12 minutes, Signs is one of those nice films that make you smile and look forward to a long day at work. In my case, a lousy Monday that didn’t promise to be too interesting.

The movie is about a lonesome guy caught in what many of us know as the monotonous work life. He has nothing to look forward to until a pretty girl comes along who works in an office next to him. To know how the story evolves, you need to catch this one.

P.S. According to many people who’ve watched this one, its plot is eerily similar to Disney’s Paperman. I haven’t caught that one so, not sure. Maybe you can tell if you’ve watched the latter.

2. Somewhere in Time (1980)

As much as I’d like to think I don’t like the too good to be true stories that require you to put logic on the backburner, there are some movies for which I am happy to make an exception. Somewhere in Time is one of them. A plot about self-hypnosis, time travel and eternal love that the protagonists arrive at in just one day, I started watching this movie with least expectations. For all I knew, I thought I’ll have a good laugh once it ended. Much to my surprise, I was just swept away.

Not only are the protagonists, Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve, breathtakingly good looking, they are in real good form in this one. There is enough drama to keep you engaged and make you feel for its central characters.   

Cynics might (and have) pan the improbability of the plot, but I am happy to put that aside simply because the actors have this crackling chemistry that makes you root for them. The movie was a box office failure (not surprising) but more than 30 years of its release, it has achieved cult status. The International Network of Somewhere in Time Enthusiasts (INSITE) is the proof to gauge its impact on movie buffs. Do give this one a try, it’s certainly worth every second of your time.

 

3. The Painted Veil (2006)

I strongly believe this movie is the most underrated romantic flick of our times. Everything about it is just charming, the Chinese landscapes, Naomi Watts, background score and Edward Norton. Ah, Edward Norton! This guy is one of the best actors of our generation and this movie establishes that one more time. Based on Somerset Maugham’s short story of the same name, the Painted Veil is one of those movies that do not start out to make some sort of sweeping statement, yet manage to enthrall movie lovers like me.

The plot. A simple, good hearted doctor falls in love with this social butterfly who marries him simply to escape the monotony of her London life. They are so different from each other that marital troubles are written on the wall right from the word go. Once the good guy discovers his shallow wife is fooling around, he decides to teach her a lesson and the movie shifts to China.

Not spoiling the plot for you here. I was just awestruck by the beauty of this movie’s narrative. Characters are complex and situations extremely difficult. How the two people who are virtually at each other’s throats find love in these trying times forms the crux of the story.

I had to coax all my friends to watch this one and even the not-so-romantic ones found it brilliant. A must watch.

 

4. Splendor in the Grass (1961)

I was a bit confused while deciding if this one should feature in this list or not. To me Splendor in the Grass, is not just a romantic film with two good looking people. It is as much about the social mores of the early 20th century America, a class of classes and sexual emancipation. (More on it, some other day).

Now why does it then figure in this list? Simply because it builds a story about the many misconceptions about love. Let me put this into perspective. The story is about two teenagers, played by Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood who are in love (well at least they think they are). The boy comes from a wealthier family while the girl is dominated by a mother who sticks to the social codes of the day. As the story progresses, you realize why the idea of love is so confusing. It’s not a mushy romance, rather a pragmatic story that can appeal to you if you are a practical person like me.

 

5. Terms of endearment (1983)

Okay, I might be wrong but a lot of my friends have not watched this one and those who have feel it’s a touching story about a mother-daughter relationship. It is. But if you watch it closely, you won’t be able to miss the striking chemistry between Jack Nicholson and Shirely McLaine.

He is a womanizer, an alcoholic and simply irreverent while she is proud, uptight and not so easy going. You’d laugh every time the two come to face each other initially. But as the movie progresses, their relationship matures. It’s heartbreaking to see Aurora (McLaine) deal with the tragic death of her daughter. More than anything, I feel this movie makes you believe how different people can be just totally right for each other.

 

     So, what’s your pick?