“What if someone you never met, someone you never saw, someone you never knew was the only someone for you?” That tag line poses a question that Nora Ephron’s seminal romantic film, Sleepless in Seattle, answers so memorably by tracing the many near-encounters of a man and a woman thrown together by one fateful call to a radio advice show. Also notable for the second on-screen pairing of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan as Sam Baldwin and Annie Reed, Sleepless in Seattle is that rare chick flick that appeals to both sexes. If you don’t believe me, please revisit the now immortal Dirty Dozen versus An Affair to Remember debate.
And can’t we all relate to Annie, just a little? Engaged to the straight laced and bumbling Walter (a perfect Bill Pullman), she is mildly satisfied but not happy. Obsessed with An Affair to Remember, Annie yearns for the dramatic, prompting her best friend and editor Becky (a glorious Rosie O’Donnell) to hit her with the greatest reality check of all-time, “You don't want to be in love. You want to be in love in a movie.” And what a movie!
In addition to Sleepless in Seattle, several other notable romantic movies celebrate their 20th anniversaries this year. We take a look back at some of the diverse love stories that 1993 had to offer.
A mentally unstable girl falls in love with an illiterate stranger with an affinity for Buster Keaton. Ordinarily, a plot like that would send any sane moviegoer running for the hills, but Benny & Joon works, perhaps because of the inspired pairing of Mary Stuart Masterson and Johnny Depp as the eccentric couple or because the sweet and tentative romance between Aidan Quinn and Julianne Moore (in an early film role) is just so appealing. Benny & Joon also marks the first time mainstream America heard The Proclaimers' I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles). Whatever black magic is at work in Benny & Joon, it is still entrancing twenty years later.
It’s an age-old tale. Boy meets girl. Girl likes boy. They fall in love. Boy thinks girl is trying to murder him. You know the drill. In this hilarious film, Mike Myers plays Charlie Mackenzie, a San Francisco beat poet who keeps breaking up with women because of his own paranoia. He gives up all hope of finding love until he meets Harriet (a luminous Nancy Travis), the friendly neighborhood butcher. Harriet’s profession and peculiar backstory sparks Charlie’s fear of marrying a murderess, and the result is a cult classic that perfectly mixes humor, danger, deception and romance in a perfect ninety-minute package. Can Mike Myers return to making this kind of movie? Please?
One of the most underrated films of the 90s has to be Peter Bogdanovich’s The Thing Called Love. Starring Samantha Mathis, Sandra Bullock and Dermot Mulroney, this country music classic is also notable as one of the last screen performances by River Phoenix. Mathis plays Miranda Presley (no relation), an aspiring songwriter, who heads to Nashville after the death of her father. She meets an eclectic group of musicians (including Mulroney's lovelorn Kyle Davidson), none more enticing, talented and frustrating than James Wright (a tour de force performance by Phoenix). The two marry hastily in a convenience store and, as with all show business relationships, they struggle, separate and eventually reunite against the backdrop of the thriving Nashville music scene. River Phoenix was never more appealing.
Featuring one of the most iconic cinematic couples of all times, True Romance is one of Tony Scott’s greatest accomplishments as a director. Penned by Quentin Tarantino, the film stars Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette as Clarence Worley and Alabama Whitman (later Worley), who have a particularly memorable meet-cute in a movie theater (never mind that’s she a hooker whose been hired to meet him there—it’s love) that leads to marriage. Slater and Arquette have an electrifying chemistry that makes the film compelling even in its most gruesome moments. You root for these newlyweds, even though they continue to make the worst choices possible—killing her pimp, stealing his coke, going on the run, and planning to unload the drugs in Hollywood. For a film that explores the all-consuming nature of love, look no further than True Romance.
One of the most tragic romances of the 1990s (and I consider myself to be somewhat of an aficionado in this genre), Untamed Heart continues to make audiences weep. Marisa Tomei stars as Caroline, an unlucky-in-love Minnesotan waitress (unlikely, yes, but stay with me), who is saved from potential rapists by Adam (Christian Slater again, undisputed king of the 90s), the shy bus boy who works at her restaurant. Intrigued by his kind and sensitive nature, Caroline finds herself wildly attracted to Adam (who could blame her?) and finds that Adam has been quietly in love with her for quite sometime. The two fall into a gentle routine until Adam’s life-threatening heart defect come to light. Adam decides not to seek a heart transplant…why, you ask? Because he is afraid that a new heart would cause him to love Caroline differently! Maddening to be sure but this doomed but passionate love affair still packs a wallop twenty years later.
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