Love Is Bizarre: 7 Odd Movies for Valentine’s Day
Everyone is familiar with the classic Valentine’s Day movies. There’s Dirty Dancing, Casablanca, Say Anything, and maybe even a little Pride and Prejudice. Many of them are great films, and there’s nothing wrong with a straightforward romance if that’s what you’re looking for. For those who haven’t lost patience with this love-fest and rented Saw III for February 14 because you just can’t stomach A Walk to Remember, here’s a few unusual love stories that don’t completely overdo it on the sugar.
1. Benny and Joon
Benny and Joon is nothing if not unique. It combines the slap-stick humor of Buster Keaton with a more serious tale of unique individuals finding love that works. Johnny Depp plays Sam — a young man who may think a little slower, has difficulty reading and writing, but knows how to iron a decent grilled cheese with a sunny disposition and strange brand of physical comedy that make him brilliant in his own right.
It also makes him the perfect partner to the troubled young woman, Joon, who’s brother Benny cares for her to the neglect of his own love life. Joon is intelligent, a painter, both well-read and well-spoken, but socially and mentally tormented beyond a point where her brother considers her capable of romantic attachment. Then Sam comes to stay with them after Benny loses a bet and life gets messy.
The film pairs two challenged individuals, but makes their challenges complementary. Of course, the movie isn’t without its frustrations, worries, and difficulties surrounding a family with special needs — even high-functioning disorders — but it adds humor and sweetness in there as well.
2. Punch Drunk Love
Punch Drunk Love is not your average love story. Some may remember Adam Sandler’s other romances, such as 50 First Dates and The Wedding Singer, but don’t assume that Punch Drunk Love follows in that same vein. The protagonist, Barry Egan, takes us along for a tale of a love worthy of V-day, except he buys thousands of pudding packs, gets blackmailed by a phone sex-line worker, loses his temper, lapses into social awkwardness, and fights with his many, many insufferable sisters — all through a strange sort of psychotropic haze of filming.
Oh, and he also sells toilet plungers. “I wanted to ask you something because you’re a doctor. I don’t like myself sometimes. Can you help me?” asks Barry of his sister’s husband — who is a dentist. Yes, the film makes you cringe at times, but it’s both hilarious, dark, and ultimately redeeming.
3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of the most artfully made and in-depth looks at love, break ups, and relationships with all their ups and downs, failures, and obsessions. This film takes a look at what would happen if, after love goes sour and you break up, you could simply erase the memories of that person rather than deal with the emotional fall out.
Jim Carrey’s mastery of drama as well as comedy is thoroughly showcased, and the end of the film feels real in a way that many romantic movies don’t. It’s satisfying, but not over-saccharine. The filming and special effects are also worth a comment — the type of quality that ages well with time, managing to still be charming rather than corny.
4. The Piano
Feeling a little bitter on the day of love? This could be the romance for you. The Piano, which won Best Picture at the Cannes Film Festival in 1993, is about a love affair with music, a love affair with a man — both simultaneously at times — and hits on forbidden love in a dark, but passionate way worth a watch.
The film tells the story of a mute woman and her daughter in the 1850s as they move to New Zealand where the mother has an arranged marriage waiting for her. She brings along her prized possession, a piano, but her new husband sells it to a man, George, who demands piano lessons from her before he will agree to give it back. You can probably guess what happens next.
Amélie comes from well-known and highly talented French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, following a familiar style in which he weaves the lives of many bizarre characters together into a cohesive love story that’s made up of more than simply two lives. Amélie is a woman who is simple, sweet, and a little eccentric. She lives in Paris where she seeks to solve a mystery while entangled in the lives of her father, a disabled man in a nearby apartment, a hypochondriac, and many others, eventually falling in love.
“I wanted to do a film with more emotion and I wanted to do a story today because [I] think it’s easier to identify with the characters. Everything could be possible in Amélie – obviously I don’t want to avoid fantasy and imagination — but I wanted to get emotion. That was my first priority,” said Jeunet in an interview with Empire.
6. The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Sex and romance — what’s the difference? Rocky Horror has a little of both, if you count Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s adoration of his Rocky experiment as romance. The music — everything from “Dammit Janet” to “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me” to “I Can Make You a Man” hits the right tone for today, and the movie is certainly anything but overly mushy.
Jump on board for a few sweet transvestites and lots of feathers and fishnets. If the fantastic soundtrack doesn’t do it for you, seeing Tim Curry in lipstick and a young, feminine Susan Sarandon should do the trick.
7. I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK
As the second subtitled romance on our list, don’t let it dissuade you. While a little bizarre, this Korean film, directed by Chan-wook Park, is both hilarious and touching. A young woman is admitted to a mental institution after attempting suicide, believing she is a robot. She thinks she is capable of communicating with other electronic items, from the florescent lights, to the vending machines, to her homemade radio.
Eventually, a romance with a fellow patient is sparked. A thief, he steals everything from underwear to intangible neurotic tendencies, and carries some very heavy mommy issues. When young Su-jeong begins to grow dangerously thin, convinced she doesn’t need to eat except for simply touching her tongue to AA batteries, he convinces her he’s installed a food-to-battery converter in her back. Part of what makes the film so great is the plethora of strange patients in the movie, including a young woman who thinks she can fly by rubbing her socks together, and an older gentleman who apologizes constantly, terrified of being impolite.
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