Shelton-Mason County Journal - Dedicated to the citizens of Mason County, Washington since 1886

Offbeat romantic movies that are highly underrated

A collection of different movies for February

 

February 3, 2022

Courtesy photo

It takes a while, but Mary Stuart Masterson and Eric Stoltz ultimately realize they're right for each other in 1987's "Some Kind of Wonderful."

Maybe it's Valentine's Day and you're looking to get into the spirit of the occasion. Maybe it's date night, whether it's with someone new, with whom you're looking to take things further, or with a longtime love with whom you're looking to keep that romantic spark going.

The problem is, so many of us have seen so many of the same familiar favorites, from more modern popcorn crowd-pleasers like "Love Actually," "When Harry Met Sally" and "Say Anything" to cinema classics like "West Side Story," "Casablanca" and "It Happened One Night."

So rather than waste your time with selections anyone could crib off a "Best of ..." list from IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, the American Film Institute or countless other movie critics online, we're going off the beaten path for romantic films featuring more unorthodox depictions of love affairs.

'Krull'

Imagine you're back in the 1980s, but after they've stopped making "Star Wars" films, and close to two decades before Peter Jackson will helm the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, but you kind of want something in-between, an epic sci-fi fantasy with swords, monsters, magic and comely princesses in need of rescuing.

This is the target market that "Krull" was hoping to hit in 1983, but what earns it a place on this list is that the beast - a Cronenbergian alien who has invaded the planet Krull and stolen Lyssa (Lysette Anthony) from Prince Colwyn (a suitably forthright Ken Marshall) - can't win unless he's sundered the young couple's love.

The beast recreates Colwyn's handsome likeness for Lyssa, and sends women to seduce Colwyn away from his quest for Lyssa, but both attempts fail, because the couple's love for one another is too pure and strong.

A fascinating subplot involves the wizard Ynyr (Freddie Jones) reconciling with his former lover, the Widow of the Web (Francesca Annis, his costar in David Lynch's "Dune"), as we see that the older sages are so committed to reuniting Colwyn and Lyssa because their own love had turned so sour.

Look for early screen performances by Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane, both playing heroic bandits, and some insanely on-point stop-motion animation of the giant Crystal Spider.

'Romancing the Stone'

Before Michael Douglas made "Fatal Attraction" in 1987, thereby pioneering the "Michael Douglas has sex with the wrong woman" subgenre of suspense thrillers, he was a credible contender for the sort of ruggedly robust man-of-action roles that his equally square-jawed, dimple-chinned father, Kirk Douglas, filled out so naturally.

Douglas does his best Indiana Jones impression in 1984 as Jack Colton, a roguish smuggler who crosses the path of lonely big-city romance novelist Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner), when she gets stranded in Colombia.

Joan finds herself living out an adventure straight out of one of her own novels in the company of a man who bears a striking resemblance to how she writes her leading men, with the joke being that the same rakish traits Joan finds so appealing in her fictional fantasy men are infuriating to her when she has to deal with them in life.

Add Danny DeVito as an unrepentantly sleazy rival smuggler to Jack and you have the birth of the Douglas-Turner-DeVito comedy trio, which would carry on through 1985's underrated "The Jewel of the Nile" (love that Billy Ocean!) and 1989's pitch-black anti-romantic comedy "The War of the Roses."

'Some Kind of Wonderful'

Even as the '80s-era oeuvre of John Hughes has earned a much-deserved resurgence, this 1987 romantic drama remains stubbornly overlooked, in favor of comedies such as 1984's "Sixteen Candles" and 1986's "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."

On its face, it's a more serious, gender-reversed version of 1986's "Pretty in Pink," in which a less-entitled Duckie gets picked instead, with working-class average guy Eric Stoltz pursuing high school classmate and queen bee Lea Thompson, until he realizes that his tomboyish best friend and fellow outsider, played by Mary Stuart Masterson, is the one he's truly loved all along.

Unlike some of Hughes' other teen dramas and comedies from that decade, which haven't aged as well, "Some Kind of Wonderful" treats the female leads in its love triangle with respect and affection, with Thompson's social butterfly eventually empathizing with school misfits like Stoltz and Masterson (after the latter is subjected to bullying rumors of being a lesbian).

'Blind Date'

In his first credited film role in 1987, Bruce Willis costars with a young Kim Basinger in this Blake Edwards-

directed screwball farce.

Willis plays Walter, an overworked yuppie whose frantic efforts go unappreciated by the impersonal company he works for, and who dreams of becoming a rhythm-and-blues musician (a dream shared in real life by Willis, who released "The Return of Bruno" studio album and one-hour HBO comedy special in 1987).

Walter's mild-mannered existence is turned upside down when his brother Ted (the sadly departed Phil Hartman of "Saturday Night Live" and "NewsRadio" fame) arranges a date with Nadia (the aforementioned Basinger), while warning him that, if Nadia gets drunk, "she loses control."

This proves to have far fewer sexy connotations than Walter anticipated, and any queasiness modern audiences might feel about questions of consent while under the influence are soon sidestepped, as Nadia manages to get Walter fired from his job and his car destroyed, all while they're being stalked by her jealous ex-boyfriend (John Larroquette of NBC's "Night Court").

In the end, though, a little destruction turns out to be what Walter's life probably needed.

'Earth Girls are Easy'

On the zanier side of comedies about how kooky Southern California was in the '80s, Geena Davis plays a Valley girl (her character is even named "Valerie Gail") who's already coping with a cheating fink of a fiancé (Charles Rocket, another SNL star who left us too soon) when a UFO crash-lands in her swimming pool.

The spaceship is piloted by three aliens covered in neon-hued fur, but when Davis' fellow hairstylist Julie Brown (who co-wrote the script) gives them a trim, they turn out to be three buff dudes.

In 1988, two years before they were reunited onscreen in FOX's "In Living Color," Damon Wayans and Jim Carrey co-starred as two-thirds of this horny alien trio, with their leader being played by a surprisingly suave and dashing Jeff Goldblum.

The '80s subgenre of "Like 1982's 'E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,' but with sex" is unexpectedly rich, spanning such films as 1984's "Splash" and "Starman," 1985's "Starcrossed" and even 1986's "Howard the Duck."

But "Earth Girls Are Easy" benefits from the fact that Goldblum and Davis were actually married at the time, and their real-life chemistry suffuses their quirky goofball characters, with a far less grisly outcome than when they costarred in David Cronenberg's "The Fly" in 1986.

'Wild At Heart'

As close to a "straight" love story as the non-Euclidean angles of David Lynch's mind are capable of delivering, this surrealist country-fried take on "The Wizard of Oz" from 1990 can be experienced, but never properly explained.

Lynch generates electric frisson from casting real-life mother-daughter duo Diane Ladd and Laura Dern in this gritty noir fable of a domineering mother, Marietta Fortune, determined to kill her daughter Lula's hoodlum boyfriend, "Sailor" Ripley, played with an Elvis Presley sneer by Nicolas Cage.

As ghastly as this film gets, with Lynch's recurring crew of professionally twisted character actors rendered especially grotesque - Willem Dafoe's prosthetic teeth alone are terrifying - its denouement explicitly calls upon Cage's weak-willed ne'er-do-well to choose the redemption of love and commitment.

Sherilyn Fenn (Audrey Horne from Lynch's "Twin Peaks," which premiered that same year) stands out as the sole survivor of a two-car accident, a broken porcelain doll who dies in front of Sailor and Lula.

Author Bio

Kirk Boxleitner, Reporter

Shelton-Mason County Journal & Belfair Herald
[email protected]

 

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