Why Hollywood Doesn't Understand Love

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? TC mark

image – Juno

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.


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  • bex

    im working on it. 

    you write the best posts.

  • Marie

    snap snap snap snap snap

  • xra

    seemed pretty obv that the reason the girl fell out of love in blue valentine was cause her guy turned into a little bitch

    i mean setting aside her own issues

    • http://ethecofem.com Bema

      yeah, he became a total asshole after marriage. But wasn't she contractually obligated to marry him after he took that beating from her ex?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeffreyjamesskatzka Je Sk

    who actually understands love?

    • http://fastfoodies.org Briana

      what's love got to do 

      (got to do)

      with it?

    • http://www.oneyearintexas.com Perfect Circles

      I do.

  • http://twitter.com/nanabuuui Anna B

    urgh, I'm tired of the typical endings to love stories in hollywood. 'Thor' made me happy, though. He didn't end up with the girl, LIKE HOW EVERYONE THOUGHT HE WOULD. YEEES, at least one movie went against the Hollywood standard. Anyone else with me here?

    'Stranger Than Fiction?' Will Ferrel's character should have died. SIGH.

    • beatricekt

      some people watch hollywood movies because they want a hollywood ending. If Will Ferrel's character died in 'Stranger Than Fiction' I would have hated the movie

    • wackomet

      Thor didn't get the girl so that he has a motivation to return to earth later in the film franchise

      He will get the girl eventually

    • Greg

      @twitter-20428524:disqus  goddamn it I haven't seen thor yet!

    • Lola

      Are you serious? They knew each other for 2 1/2 days and ostensibly fall madly in love with each other after the grand total of 10 lines of conversation. Real my ass.

  • beatricekt

    Indie quirky love is for the pretentious indie goers, i mean I have to admit i'm extremely pretentious but what annoys me about indie quirky love and rom coms is the lack of conversation. All they depict is the all too cheesy romance between them, but what exactly sparks love? It should be conversation, not just lovey-dovey conversation, but actual intellectually stimulating conversation with depth. However, intellectual conversation isn't exactly engaging to the audience since their not really part of it. Remember, movies are for entertainment and trying to depict a more realistic relationship is hard work. Even blue valentine didn't meet my expectations

  • http://twitter.com/ellie_rex danielle garza

    ” 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? “

    Took the words out of my mouth.

  • katiebee

    hmm, i think you're forgetting the intense, dramatic, full-blown love: the core of movies like the notebook. and i have a really messy love/hate relationship with these. i adore seeing what love could be, but these are also the movies that make me go through half a bag of hershey's kisses and a box of kleenex as i'm bawling my eyes out about how i'm going to die alone because my expectations have been heightened thanks to these movies.

  • Brittany

    I really suggest Closer (2004) based on the play. It's one of the times I think a movie got it right. It shows how we always connect sex to love and doesn't sugar coat anything. I've read the play and seen the movie and Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, Natalie Portman and Jude Law do an amazing job with their roles.

    • http://ethecofem.com Bema

      I like Natalie Portman. But I don't like Julia Roberts.

      [Mentally weighing each option.]

  • MM

    I know 500 Days of Summer isn't suppose to be a “love story” (the movie said)

    but my friend had a similar situation like 500 days (and he is only 17!) and we watched it and he was like making really weird noises and confessing that that happened to him (And I confirmed because he would come to me about it)

    • http://ethecofem.com Bema

      I'm sorry to intrude on your personal anecdote, but everyone should know that 500 Days of Summer is the biggest ripoff of Annie Hall. They're practically identical, even down to the same big city creative-type with a tiny frame.

      So, yeah.

      • wackomet

        nothing new under the sun, bro

      • http://ethecofem.com Bema

        I'm a little hypersensitive to insults against Woody Allen [like this movie].

      • SisterRay

        That's weird, because I don't think they're identical at all. Annie Hall, the character, was insecure and neurotic, attempting to have a relationship with another insecure and neurotic person. Joseph G-L's character (can't remember his name) was making WAY too much of his relationship with Summer, who explained to him that she wasn't as into him as he was into her, he didn't listen, and then she married someone else. Not sure where you're getting this whole “identical” thing. But I agree that Annie Hall is a far, far, far superior movie.

      • http://ethecofem.com Bema

        Isn't that the same thing that happened in Annie Hall, when she moved to

        SoCal and he was much more devastated than her? Although at the end she does

        express some nostalgia over their relationship. But anyway, if anything the

        films are constructed in the exact same way, with the non-linear plot and

        emotional roller coaster and whatnots.

  • Lillian

    that's too bad that Mike Mills' film was a disappointment. His wife, Miranda July, just made a film called The Future. i think it is going to be released this summer. i liked it a lot; i don't think it portrayed the Quirky Indie Love that you talk about here.

  • http://www.myheartandmyskull.tumblr.com Lauren

    This is why I watch “terrible” reality TV like The Bachelorette.  I know it's not “good” and I know it's edited, too.  But there are moments of real emotion and connection in there somewhere… just can't say the same for most movies these days.

  • Minster of Comments

    When holiday depicts “Indie Quirky Love” it does so with you in mind, author.

    • Jordan

      I think this is a pretty interesting comment.  The indie-love is made with the audience of TC in mind.  Just look at the quantity of affected and anxiety-ridden posts on here and plug in Michael Sera or Ryan Gosling and boom you've got Nick & Nora/Blue Valentine sequels.  The indie-love is for the audience who deem it beneath themselves to watch the newest Julia Roberts movie because it's too chipper or ends well.  I'm also sick of the awkward moments and dull dialogue but you've got to be able to see the audience they're going for, and the people they're basing it off of.

      Just like the other end of the spectrum, rom-com love, they must exaggerate certain characteristics in order to make a movie.  And speaking of Woody Allen, that might be one of the more faithful representations, if only because of the stark reality he puts his characters in.  We do it because we need the eggs!

  • http://www.oneyearintexas.com Perfect Circles

    You are 100% right about Blue Valentine and 50% right about Beginners.

  • beatricekt

    Sighs, ryan i'm going to be new york in a little more than 24 hours, i'm staying in downtown. I wish I would bump into you

  • yhyhgz
  • cha

    Before Sunrise/Sunset?

    • Partridge

      I wouldn't say that their love ended, though. Nonetheless, a pretty devastating portrayal of romance – at least in Sunset.

  • http://twitter.com/mogboy1015 Michael Gomez

    I always thought Hannah Takes the Stairs was pretty realistic.

  • Elle

    That French actress that Ewan's character falls in love with is the woman from Quentin Tarantino's “Inglourious Basterds”. You know her, she blew up Hitler and whatnot.

  • kaye

    Little Manhattan depicted the “first crush/puppy love” pretty well.

  • http://twitter.com/nestevian888 Nestevian

    Isn't this type of brain washing just horrible?

  • Torieludwin

    See Scenes from a Marriage. Fantastic.

    • http://ethecofem.com Bema

      Yeah, if you want to feel all depressed and adulterous at the end of the


  • http://www.therawness.com T. AKA Ricky Raw

    The big problem with Hollywood is that it doesn't so much sell unrealistic dreams about how people get together, although it does do some of that too, but rather that it sells unrealistic expectations about what happens after you GET together. Movies always end with the couple overcoming obstacles to end up together. Then the credits roll. In real life people are surprised that getting together is only the beginning. There's that phase where the honeymoon period wears off and you have to learn to get along without all those hormones and euphoria driving you crazy.

    I think that's the big appeal with Blue Valentine. There's a certain point in the narrative where, if the movie ended there, we'd have a perfect Hollywood ending. But the movie pushes years beyond that. It would be like if Say Anything continued years past the point in the story where the credits began rolling. In fact much of this movie reminded me of a Say Anything treated more realistically.

  • Guest

    If you're looking for something that shows real emotion then don't look in Hollywood

  • ashlee

    Everybody neesd to watch “Last Night” starring Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington. It'll be worth your time.

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