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ROMANCE, SEX NOT SYNONYMOUS

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s a Valentine’s Day column I wrote for the Feb. 9, 2007, Deseret News, headlined: ‘Film romance out of touch with reality,’ a sentiment that feels even more applicable nine years later.

Every year around this time Hollywood releases a few "romantic comedies" to get the jump on Valentine's Day.


But Hollywood's view of romance certainly ain't what it used to be.
Here's a tip, guys. Romance and sex are not synonymous.


Not that you'd ever know from what passes for movie romance these days.
Being big Jennifer Garner fans, my wife and I went to "Catch and Release" last Friday. And being big Diane Keaton fans, we went to "Because I Said So" on Saturday.


Yeah, we read all those negative reviews, but we were hopeful that, with these stars, there would be something to cling to.


Nothing. Nada. Zip.


"Catch and Release" begins with Garner inadvertently witnessing her late fiance's best friend having sex with a stranger in the bathroom. It goes downhill from there. She moves in with her late fiance's roommates, meets up with a woman with whom the fiance had an affair, and there's a bratty little boy.


"Because I Said So" begins at a wedding, as Keaton and her three daughters discuss the value of circumcision — with one daughter on the speaker of her mother's cell phone, for all the wedding guests to hear. Then it's just one sleazy sitcom sex joke after another. The most R-rated PG-13 movie I've seen in some time. And there's a bratty little boy (with a potty mouth).


In both films, everybody sleeps around, hops in bed on the first date, has graphic discussions about things that — 21st century or not — most people simply do not discuss.


Polite conversation? Never heard of it. Take a new relationship slow? What's that about?


The characters in these movies live in some alternate universe.
Planet Hollywood, perhaps.

     

          Amy Irving, Peter Reigert, 'Crossing Delancey'

But we've been on this path for a while, as demonstrated by five DVDs released this week from Warner Home Video, representing several decades of Hollywood's version of romance.


The films in this collection (all sold separately, $19.97) are varied in quality and style, but one stands out by virtue of actually tackling the subject of romance vs. sex — "Crossing Delancey" (1988).


Amy Irving plays Izzy, a confused bookstore clerk who has become a snob, having turned her back on her roots to embrace the bohemian lifestyle of the literati who surround her. She occasionally sleeps with a married man who shows up on her doorstep after arguing with his wife, and she lusts after another married man, an egotistical author.


Izzy resists an arranged set-up by her grandmother and a matchmaker, looking down her nose at the man they choose, a lowly pickle-seller named Sam (Peter Reigert, at his most charming). What Izzy doesn't know is that Sam has loved her from afar for many years.


But Sam represents — and embraces — everything Izzy has tried to leave behind about her lower East Side Jewish upbringing. So she tries to resist him as he woos her steadily but gently.


And, of course, she will ultimately come to realize that true love grows over time and is much more significant and fulfilling than the occasional roll in the hay.


"Crossing Delancey" is slow to build, and for a while you may think that you won't like Irving's character. But, hey, if Sam sees something in her, we should too. And in the end, she comes to understand what a lasting relationship is really all about.


It's a delightful film, with stage actress Reizl Bozyk a standout as Izzy's "Bubbie." And "Frasier" fans should look for David Hyde Pierce (billed as "David Pierce"), who gets some laughs in a small role.


Ironically, many critics have described "Crossing Delancey" as an "old-fashioned" romantic comedy. It is.


And that's a compliment.

HERE ARE THE OTHER FILMS in this Valentine's Day collection:

 

"The Clock" (1945) is the oldest film here, a cute, light black-and-white comedy about a soldier (Robert Walker) on a two-day pass in Manhattan, who meets a woman (Judy Garland, in her first non-singing role) and commences a 48-hour whirlwind courtship. Cute, unassuming — filmed in a New York that is obviously a Hollywood set and rear-projection backgrounds.


"Miracle in the Rain" (1956) is a black-and-white soap-opera fantasy about another soldier (Van Johnson) in Manhattan who meets a woman (Jane Wyman in Plain-Jane mode), and another whirlwind romance ensues. In this case, however, tragedy looms, and the soap gets mighty thick. Still, it's effective, thanks primarily to Wyman's convincing performance and the New York location shooting. (Look for comic Alan King in his second film role, and, years before "Laugh-In," young Arte Johnson.)

 

"A Summer Place" (1959) is the famous glossy soap opera about adult infidelity and teenage sex, which came out just as movies were, as Hollywood likes to say, "growing up." Divorce, teen pregnancy and other formerly taboo subjects are addressed, if rather tentatively. Today it's all a bit too precious. But it does have that stirring music and that widescreen, colorful coastal setting (in Maine). Sandra Dee, Troy Donahue, Richard Egan, Dorothy McGuire, Constance Ford and Arthur Kennedy star.

 

"Blume in Love" (1973), on the other hand, is one of those midlife-crisis flicks — with R-rated sex and nudity —that were so popular in the '70s. Divorce lawyer George Segal tries to be a swinger but can't get ex-wife Susan Anspach off his mind, despite such distractions as Marsha Mason. Writer-director Paul Mazursky, Kris Kristofferson and Shelley Winters are also on hand. But, despite the film's pretentions of "adult" content, the story and characters feel artificial and muddled ... much like the decade of the '70s.