Hollywood doesn’t understand love. It understands CGI, antiquated gender roles and maybe toddlers, but it misses the mark on love every single time. Hollywood, why you so stupid?
When Blue Valentine came out last year, people were losing their shit because a movie finally depicted a relationship with honesty. When I saw it, I remember thinking, “That was good but it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. All it did was show two people who grew apart after having once been in love.” But I get it. Even though Blue Valentine was so simple, it was the first movie to actually show love for what it is: Messy, confusing, and able to fall apart without any good reason. There were no comic misunderstandings or infidelity; it was just plain ol’ “I don’t love you anymore and I’m not sure why. Bye!” It’s depressing that this every day reality was seen as a revelation.
You could argue that film is a form of escapism and people don’t want to go to the movies to watch something they can experience for themselves, but I don’t think that’s entirely true. Why do documentaries exist, if not to capture “real life?” Personally, I go to the movies to see a “slice of life” film or something that I know I can relate to. Given the success of Blue Valentine, I know I’m not the only moviegoer who prefers reality over fantasy.
Movies describe relationships as being either one of two things. There’s the overblown rom-com starring someone like Kate Hudson. No one ever really relates to this perfect Hollywood version of love but that’s sort of the point. When real love is bumming you out, you turn to images of fake love to console you. I understand it. It’s annoying and is usually sexist but it has a valid place somewhere somehow.
The other kind of love you see in movies is what really gets under my skin. It’s what I refer to as”Indie Quirky Love.” Indie Quirky Love was popularized in films like Juno and Garden State and it claims to be the anti-Hollywood version of love. In their eyes, love means awkward silences, mixed tapes, meaningful glances, and bike rides. It’s bullshit. It’s worse than the Kate Hudson rom-com kind of love because it claims to be authentic. Everyone knows rom-coms are full of shit, which makes them tolerable but Indie Quirky Love thinks it is so genuine.
Last night I saw Beginners—the new Mike Mills film starring Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer—and was bummed out to discover that it had included an Indie Quirky Love relationship. Although it captured the dynamic between Oliver (Ewan McGregor) and his newly out gay father (Christopher Plummer) beautifully, it dropped the ball on the relationship Oliver has with some French actress named Ana. Even though the two supposedly fall in love over the course of the film, there’s no meaningful dialogue between them. Ana just gives Oliver these precious stares that are meant to indicate depth and they go on kooky dates where they just laugh together for no reason. When things start to fall apart, the audience is given no real reason why. Ana just starts to cry a lot and there are a ton of awkward silences. When the two actually do have a conversation, it’s muted over some song.
A great soundtrack and cute montages are a poor substitute for chemistry and actual explanations as to what is going on. Why are filmmakers/ Hollywood so afraid to give the audience something real? Why do they hide behind a Moldy Peaches song and a killer wardrobe? I want to see movies that reflect my own experience. I want to see a relationship onscreen that makes me go “Aha! I’ve felt that before. That’s so true!” Is that too much to ask?