This list is for the ladies. But we thought about you also, guys! Here’s what to watch on Netflix this Valentine’s Day if you’ve already seen How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days and Clueless a bunch of times each: 10 romances you’ve probably never heard of.
Photo Credit: “Evening Entertainment” by Flickr user “lowjumpingfrog” (licensed by CC 3.0)
We’ve consumed hours and hours of Netflix to identify the gems amidst all the lackluster, and sometimes truly awful, rom-coms in your Instant Queue. (Seriously. We even watched The Shunning thinking it would feature a little Amish love action. Sadly, it was all wagons and melodrama.) These lesser-known, mostly indie, foreign, and slightly older titles that rose to the top are light, fun, and totally worth a watch the next time you’re tempted to hit “play” on the sixth viewing of She’s All That. Plus, in case you’d like to watch with your boyfriend/male friend/postman, we’ve put asterisks by the films that are more guy-friendly—by which we mean that they feature guy perspectives, guns, and/or hot French women, and absolutely do not have scenes of people making love in a bathtub surrounded by dozens of candles.
Happy Accidents (2000)
Marisa Tomei plays Ruby, a woman unlucky-in-love who memorializes the string of weirdos and jerks she’s dated by tossing their photos into a shoebox labeled “ex-files.” Kind but strange Sam (Vincent D’Onofrio) charms his way into her life, and all of his oddities (he doesn’t get cultural references, for example) are soon explained: he’s a “back traveler” from 400 years in the future. Most women whose boyfriends tell them that they arrived from the future six months ago would not stick around, but the movie does a good job of making Ruby’s not kicking Sam to the curb believable. Things get humorously complicated as she grapples with figuring him, and their relationship, out. Every seeming lie or inconsistency he is able to explain with some tale about his time travel. Like Ruby, we want to believe sweet, earnest Sam so badly, and that’s what makes this touching little film so watchable.
Ira & Abby (2006)
Ira (Chris Messina) is the neurotic son of two therapists; Abby (Jennifer Westfeldt) is a kind free spirit who makes friends with a mugger on the subway. Everyone loves Abby, while even Ira’s own therapist can’t stand him. The two meet when Ira, feeling fat, visits the gym where Abby sells memberships, and they are married a week later. What starts out as a story about two people who get married without really knowing each other, and the issues that quite predictably result, becomes a deeper tale about good relationships, marriage, and commitment. The movie has a nice balance of touching, poignant moments and zany, good-humored fun, thanks in part to Ira’s and Abby’s parents and the many analysts doling out therapy. Ira and Abby grapple with trust and the truth, jealousy and forgiveness, love and acceptance. The ending is unexpected but, surprisingly, perfect.
*The Names of Love (2010)
This French film focuses on the affair between Arthur Martin (Jacques Gamblin), an upright bird specialist with puritanical parents and a Jewish heritage he hides; and Baya (Sara Forestier), a young, half-Arab, free-spirited left-wing revolutionary who always seems to be wearing shirts that show her bra—when she’s wearing a bra, that is. The film shows how love involves not only an interweaving of lives and personalities, but also of families and cultures. Although handling heavy subjects such as child abuse and genocide, it’s somehow a bright, often funny film, delightful and surprising. The character Baya is love personified—unabashed and free, generous and joyous. So what if she’s in the habit of sleeping with right-wing men to convert them to her leftist ideals?
In Outsourced, manager Todd (Josh Hamilton) finds the work of his call center department outsourced to cheaper labor in Mumbai—and himself given the task of training the new India workforce how to sell cheesy American tchotchkes. Culturally clueless and unable to find a cheeseburger, Todd has his work cut out for him in India. But as he opens himself up to the culture, two parallel love stories emerge: the wonderfulness Todd finds in the country of India alongside his growing feelings for Asha (Ayesha Dharker), a woman at the call center. Unfortunately Asha is headed for an arranged marriage to another man. The likeability of most of the characters makes this fish-out-of-water tale a sweet addition to the rom-com genre. And the fact that Todd and Asha can’t even hold hands in public injects a little forbidden sizzle into the romance.
Puccini for Beginners (2006)
Recently dumped by her girlfriend, Allegra (Elizabeth Reaser) soon stumbles into relationships with both Philip (Justin Kirk) and Grace (Gretchen Mol), who, unbeknownst to her, are themselves recently broken up – with each other. Despite the complete implausibility of this scenario, Allegra, played by Reaser with a winning, light-up smile, is a totally charming mixture of hapless horn-dog, philosophical music lover, and vulnerable romantic. Waxing ideological about the strictures of monogamy while dating two people at once, commitment-phobe Allegra ultimately discovers what it really means to be in love and in a relationship. After a conversation with increasingly clingy Grace, Allegra, who is upset that she has upset Grace, asks unaware Philip, “Have you ever noticed that women cry more easily than men?” He responds, “It’s one of the things I love about women” and Allegra says, tellingly, “Me too.”
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