11 February 2016

Thursday Movie Picks: Valentine's Edition - May/December Romances

I feel like the May-December Romance implies some sort of swindle...gold-digging, status-seeking, and other attempts at personal gain. But that's not always the case, and that's where I'm going today. I'm simply looking at relationships between an older party and a younger party, relationships that work for laughs but feel meaningful and important to both parties.

So, it's Thursday, which means it's time once again for Wandering through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. The theme...May-December Romances.

Here are my picks:

Dir. Woody Allen, 1979

I always bought the relationship between Woody Allen's Isaac and Mariel Hemingway's Tracy. He's in his early 40s. She is 17. It's a bit icky, especially given Woody's well-advertised scandal involving what he did (or didn't do) with Mia Farrow's kids. I digress, because, for me, it's easy to turn off the tabloid accusations and just enjoy what Woody was doing here. Isaac is constantly at odds with the seriousness of such a relationship. Added to that, Tracy is smarter, and, in some ways, more worldly than he will ever be. In the young Tracy, Isaac finds the idealism he is so desperately searching for in that famous opening voiceover, the stops and starts of a writer without a grasp on that very thing...idealism. It's something he couldn't dream of finding in Diane Keaton's stubborn Mary and that which conflicts him in the adultery of his best friend, Yale (Michael Murphy). The romantic realization of the finale represents everything I love about Romantic Comedies. It works because it is not about age. It's simply about being mature enough to realize what you really want.

As Good As It Gets
Dir. James L. Brooks, 1997

Jack Nicholson plays Melvin Udall, an obsessive-compulsive jerk, who writes dime-a-dozen romance novels. Helen Hunt plays Carol Connelly, a waitress with a sickly kid at home. Both actors won Oscars for their respective Leading Roles that year, and I always dug that about this film. They are both strongly deserved wins. Perhaps the best thing about this film is that the romance isn't at the center. Melvin, a regular at Carol's restaurant, pretty much repulses her for the better part of the movie, but they find a mutual attraction in the good they bring to each other's lives. And that is worth something. And it's why this movie, as a comedy and a romance, is so likable.

The American Pie Series 
(1999 - 2012) 

I won't get into the plots of the films. I love them all, except the spin-offs, of course. The first is a classic teen comedy, the second not-as-much, the third is a brilliant wedding comedy, and the fourth, well, I don't remember it that well, only that I liked it. The first three, though, feature a steamy love affair for the ages. That being the secret trysts between Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), the dorky, artsy one of the bunch, who can't crap in public and drinks Mochaccinos, and Stifler's Mom (the great Jennifer Coolidge), mother of the meathead, Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott). Yeah, that's the only name by which she is referred, and she hardly has any lines. The pay-off of this plot thread in the first film is nearly as memorable as the "flute" line, or the apple pie scenario. And it's so real, it's so love, and it coined the popular acronym....MILF.



    lol. I love American Pie (like you, not the spin offs and I'd also through American Wedding in there as one I couldn't stand) I haven't seen the other two though. I'm not crazy about Woody Allen movies, but I remember hearing good things as about As Good As It Gets.

    1. Haha! Hell yes!!

      As for Woody, he has something for everyone. I'm interested to hear what you've seen and didn't like. I love some, like some, and hate some. As Good As It Gets is super charming. Give it a go.

  2. M

    LOL, love that you included American Pie! Awesome choice.

    I like As Good as It Gets, but I can't love it...there's something off about it...but Hunt is tremendous and I wholly support her Oscar win (even if I think I slightly prefer Helena Bonham Carter) and the haters can vacate the building. She was so full bodied and honest and raw and just heartbreaking.

    Manhattan is the Woody Allen masterpiece I never cared for, personally.

    1. Thanks, bro. Finch and Stifler's Mom forever!!!

      I happen to love As Good As It Gets. I find it fully charming. Nicholson is hilarious there, and I agree on Hunt.

      Manhattan is one I actually rarely go back to, but it's a solid film, especially visually.

  3. Good picks - I wouldn't classify As Good As It Gets as May-December because I always thought they were 30s and 60s which is definitely an age gap but never felt huge, weirdly? I dunno. But I remember really liking that film a lot. So well done and great performances.

    Manhattan on the other hand... I can't STAND the relationship between Isaac and Tracy. I know she's an "old soul" or whatever, but I just never bought that she would EVER be with this nebbish. I also don't find anything special about Mariel Hemnmingway's performance - I feel for Tracy, certainly, but the actress playing her is so affectless that I have trouble buying the performance, not just as a seventeen year-old, but as a PERSON. I still LOVE Manhattan, but GOD I hate that relationship.

    Long live Jennifer Coolidge, comic genius par excellence. American Pie is such a classic.

    1. Thanks, man. I had a hard time with this one, but if you just consider the age gap, As Good As It Gets works.

      I think Manhattan certainly wants you to question that relationship. I like it, and I think Hemingway did well with the part.

      Jennifer Coolidge is a top notch comedic actress. I could watch her in anything, and I could watch American Pie on repeat. So many great memories of that movie.

  4. Stifler's Mom!!! Almost went with the AP movies myself before going with another series. Great job!

    1. Nice! It was a must for me. Thanks, man.

  5. The relationship between Isaac and Tracy is amazing, such a shame he had to waste time with Keaton's Mary to understand how much he loved Tracy. Awesome you went with American Pie, Stifler's mom is the MILF!

    1. Agreed! And so glad we agree. Stifler's Mom certainly is. Haha!

  6. Great picks for the theme I just wish I could say I love them all. As I've said before I'm variable on Woody Allen movies and ones that are venerated aren't usually the ones I like, except Hannah and Her Sisters-that's a work of art, and this is one of those. I really didn't like Manhattan the first time I watched it so I gave it another chance recently, many years later, and it still left me cold.

    It was still better than As Good As It Gets though. I D-E-T-E-S-T that movie. Hated Nicholson, hated Hunt, hated it!!

    The first American Pie is a fun, goofy movie and Jennifer Coolidge is comedy gold. Most of the sequels were mistakes.

    I tried for a balance of comedy and drama and older man/younger woman and the reverse this week.

    Murphy’s Romance (1985)-In her early thirties divorcee Emma (Sally Field) and her young son are new in town where she is trying to make a go of a horse farm. Middle aged druggist Murphy (James Garner) takes a shine to her and tries to send business her way while slowly romancing her. Things are progressing nicely until Emma’s irresponsible but charming ex-husband turns up and tries to win her back. Complications ensue. Amiable, ambling comedy netted Garner a best actor Oscar nomination.

    Forty Carats (1973)-Fortyish Ann Stanley (Liv Ullman) has a brief fling with 20 something Peter Latham (Edward Albert) while on vacation in Greece. Returning to her New York home she runs into Peter again at a party and he wishes to pick up where they left off. Ann mindful of their age difference is leery. Peter however will not be put off. Somewhat stagy (it’s based on a play) but it’s nice to see Ullman loosen up and character actress Binnie Barnes is a hoot as her irrepressible Mom.

    Autumn Leaves (1956)-Lonely 50ish spinster Millie (Joan Crawford) meets equally lonely 30ish Army vet Burt (Cliff Robertson). Despite her initial reluctance they marry after a whirlwind courtship. One day Burt’s ex-wife and father show up telling Millie Burt is mentally ill and their presence does seem to spark a great deal of agitation in him. Millie, sensing there is more than meets the eye, attempts to help Burt and get to the bottom of the situation. With the high priestess of 50’s anguish in the lead you just know that will include much melodrama but the film does try and provide some insights into mental health issues. The title song is sung over the credits by Nat King Cole.

    Honorable mention-Leon: The Professional (1994)-When her entire family is murdered by an out of control DEA agent 12 year old Mathilda (Natalie Portman) is reluctantly taken in by professional assassin Leon (Jean Reno). Hunted and sworn to vengeance they form an intense connection during which he teaches her his trade. Not so much a May/December romance as a tale of extreme emotions under extraordinary circumstances. Both leads give wonderfully nuanced performances.

    1. Oh, man. Manhattan is one of Woody's "masterpieces" that I don't go back to much, but I still find it an incredibly well-made film. Hannah and Her Sisters is better my a country mile, though, I agree.

      As Good As It Gets is wholly charming for me. I LOVED Nicholson and Hunt. Oh, well...

      The original American Pie worked for its honest writing in terms of teenage sexuality. It really is a classic teen comedy. Agreed fully on Coolidge. Her work is always perfect.

      Your picks are unfamiliar to me, except Leon. That is a wonderful film with a fully endearing relationship, which is why it works so well.

  7. I still have to see Manhattan and I know it to be a classic but I just had to much Woody Allen for a while(his actual films not about his private life). I enjoyed As Good As It Gets even though I am not a Helen Hunt fan (when she was with Hank Azaria winning tons of Emmys etc...She would always thank him in a weird way but never ever say his name! I once screamed at the TV "Say his F*&#ing name Ya Dumbass!")> I truly enjoyed American Pie and Jennifer Coolidge is a classic comedian

    1. Woody often fails. I guess that's what happens when you make so many. Manhattan is a must see, though. Strange about Hunt not mentioning his name. She is great in that movie. American Pie is certainly enjoyable. Glad you think so as well.

  8. Stifler's mom! Ha ha... I love it. Great choices all the way around.

  9. Jack Nicholson always seem to be paired off with younger women in most films, a lot of them could probably fit this theme. I think the only one where both him and his partner seem to be around the same age was About Schmidt if only for a while. Oh then there was Something's Gotta Give with Diane Keaton but that was only after dating her character's daughter.