Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, aka the biggest love it or hate it holiday of the year. Romantic comedies are the usual type of films that couples will flock to on the penultimate day, however in the standards of today’s industry, most films of this genre are stale and cliché in their execution. Fortunately however, there are certain entries in this genre that stylishly skewer those tiresome tropes, which is exactly where these three recommended features fall into.
Kevin Smith is best known for his raunchy R-rated comedies, but “Chasing Amy” is certainly unlike any other film in his resume. Ben Affleck stars as a comic book artist whose life changes when he meets Alyssa Jones, a fellow comic artist that he eventually falls in love with. There is however a big catch that entangles their relationship: Alyssa is a lesbian. Even outside the explicit sexual dialogue, the film is an astute consensus on the complexity of relationships, and also makes numerous perceptive statements on the mixed social treatment of America’s gay culture. It certainly ranks as Kevin Smith’s best film, and also features brilliant performances by Ben Affleck, and Joey Laurey Adams, who plays Alyssa.
Next is a 70s classic in the romantic comedy genre, Hal Ashby’s “Harold and Maude.” The film tells the story of a rich, death-obsessed teenager named Harold, whose perception on life changes when he meets Maude, an extremely free-spirited and anarchic septuagenarian that teaches him the ropes for how to make the best out of the cycle of life. The relationship between Harold and Maude is initially quite odd due to their age difference, their distinctive personalities pair well in building a fresh take on how to live life to the fullest. Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon are terrific in the title roles, and the songs by Cat Stephens are very lively in accordance to the films’ characters and events.
Lastly is one of Woody Allen’s best romantic comedy features, “Manhattan.” Allen stars as a recently divorced television writer living in New York City, who’s dating a high schooler, but soon finds romance in his best friend’s mistress. Though the set-up is uncomfortably familiar with Allen’s real-life persona, it doesn’t lower this film from being the masterpiece it is, and also one of the greatest love letters to New York City. Even though he’s playing his neurotically charming caricature (back then when it was consistently good), Allen is great in the lead, and the performances of Mariel Hemingway and Diane Keaton as his love interests are equally buoyant.
The outcome of someone’s Valentine’s Day is entirely dependent on how you choose to spend it, so whether or not you’re single on the holiday, one or all of these three aforementioned romance films should sufficiently fill your time in showing how love can be found in the most unorthodox of ways.