Turmoil in a relationship is like water on concrete – it finds every crack and crevice. Hollywood will occasionally generate a love story that honestly depicts the heavily- layered onion that arguments can blossom into. Scenes of both conflict and resolution offer an honest glimpse at choices, both good and bad, made in the name of love. Some are so good they make us want to re-evaluate how we clean up messes in our own shop:
1. Tootsie (1982)
Tootsie makes a strong argument for the power of forgiveness and second chances. Dustin Hoffman plays an actor who can only land work disguised as a woman, but falls in love with his soap opera co-starJessica Lange. The final scene where she asks to borrow his yellow Halston (that’s a dress, fellas) offers a quick touch of humor in an otherwise heavy moment. It allows for the story’s quick resolve, knowing as the camera pulls back and they walk off through Manhattan, they have resumed their togetherness. If she can forgive the cross-dressing and the lying, and he can get passed her father proposing marriage to his female counterpart, maybe they can survive anything. As he roommate Bill Murray says, “That is one nutty hospital.”
2. Pretty Woman (1990)
A film’s base couple doesn’t have to be perfect to display enviable qualities. Julia Roberts shot to fame as a hooker with a heart of gold in Pretty Woman, with Richard Gere as her only observed customer. Near the film’s finale, in the lobby of the Beverly Hills Wilshire, there’s a touching scene that smacks of Cinderella. Earlier ostracized from Rodeo Drive, she is now embraced as worthy of dignity. Part of the appeal was that such a wealthy and powerful man would look past her transgressions/felonies, and see the diamond trapped down in so very much rough. It’s the street-walker equivalent to the glass slipper fitting. He dramatically ascends the fire escape to claim her. As she put it, “I want the fairy tale.”
3. The Break-Up (2006)
A nice little gem here deals with a very relatable subject matter, shared interests among lovers. Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston endure a- well – break up – and are forced to continue co-habituating in their shared condo. Using the old ballet vs. the ballgame dichotomy, the issue of doing things as a couple is brutally broken down. It sparks their initial split, and plays very much like an unscripted argument. The communicative struggles the pair exhibit simultaneously remind why the two are great together, and why that may not be enough after all.
4. Moonstruck (1987)
Cher and Nicolas Cage star in this comedy about a widow named Loretta, a woman in her thirties who still lives with her parents. She become engaged to a man she really doesn’t love. She does, however, take an interest in his younger brother, played by Cage. One particularly memorable scene is shared between Loretta and her mother (Olympia Dukakis) where the infidelity and urgency come to an avoidable boil. A moment that starts with pure joy for her ends with sudden drama when her mother spots a hickey- and it’s hysterical. “You got a love bite on your neck, he’s coming back this morning- what the matter with you – your life’s goin’ down the toilet!” Both ladies won an Oscar for their performances.
5. When Harry Met Sally (1989)
With the recent passing of screenwriter Nora Ephron, it would be inappropriate not to mention her masterpiece with Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. Throughout the film, the main story is intercut with a variety of couples being interviewed in the same cozy room. We learn about how they met and how they make it work. At the film’s climax, Harry chases Sally down during a New Year’s Eve party, and explains that he came that night, not because of the holiday. “I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” The documentary-style interviews come full circle, as the last couple we see in that same cozy room are our protagonists. Watching their fumbled decade-long effort to reach love, it reminds how arduous and necessary the whole journey is.
Seeing these fictional couples struggle through the familiar rat race of relationships reiterates how universal such issues are. The emotional aftermath in real life isn’t typically resolved in ninety minutes, and the damage goes beyond spilled popcorn. In real life the consequences and choices that come with modern love are more tangible, and more poorly lit. Still, the cinema serves to remind that if hookers and cross-dressing thespians can sort out their affairs, perhaps we can, too.
Will King is a television and media critic who splits his time as a stand up comic. He collects conspiracy theories and claims to have invented Teflon. In his spare time he follows presidential politics and all traffic signs. He lives in Charlotte, NC.
Selma: This just makes me all ooey gooey inside. We should all take these scenes into account when in our everyday relationships. We sometimes forget to add the romance and ooey gooey but focus more on the frustrations and fighting. But are these far from reality? If they are for you then you have to ask yourself if you are in a good relationship. I recommend this DiscoveryGame to see how much romance you stir into your own relationships.
Giulia: They say the best relationships start from friendships, and love really isn’t just about romance after all. How many times have we heard people say they are married to their best friend?! It’s about being truly connected and involves hard work. Fighting isn’t a bad thing – it means you care. I recommend this DiscoveryGame to see how in sync you are with your partner.