Our romance author from time to time wishes to go to the movies. She longs to enjoy a romantic escape, so to speak, from her humdrum existence.
She imagines watching the heroines of older years like Carole Lombard or Ingrid Bergman or Meg Ryan – by turns witty, lyrical and adorable. She envisions the broad-shouldered heroes of Westerns and the sad-eyed men of noirs who swept her away, so long ago, when she was young and impressionable.
Off to the modern cinema she goes – with Professor Jill Evans, now a confirmed romantic herself. The two women find themselves baffled, with only their buttered popcorn to console them as they watch the new film, Fat Sloppy Men.
Indeed, as the title promises, the movie features fat sloppy fellows who – apart from having no career prospects or ambitions – seem incapable of uttering a single interesting word, and content themselves with the occasional huh? Bizarrely, these inarticulate heroes seem unwilling to commit themselves in normal ways. They are overgrown children who hang around eating and drinking and indulging in recreational drugs—the Three Stooges, come to life as romantic leads.
The heroines – played by one of today’s tall beautiful blondes – is frustrated with these fat lazy fellows, but eventually resign herself to her pathetic fate. After all, what else is there for her? Decades ago, her chubby slacker might have been included in a script for comic effect – but now, he is the prize.
The authoress and Jill walk home, with heavy hearts. On their way, they bump into Prudence Wilcox—a star student in Jill’s seminar on post-feminist literary criticism. Prudence is carrying a batch of DVDs to watch with her female friends.
“Are women resigned to lazy silly men?” Dr. Jill asks--she herself has a crush on Hugh Grant and wonders why he rarely graces the screen.
“Oh, not all women, just women in film,” Prudence reminds them. “In real life, we hardly date anyway, so we’re not resigned to anyone, obviously.”
“Even Woody Allen chased Annie Hall, and he was charming, too—what happened to men chasing after women?” the authoress asks.
“That was the old patriarchy, I guess, or something,” says Prudence. “I’m going home to watch Groundhog Day—now that was romantic!”
She shows the author and Jill some of her favorites—for even in this prosaic era, she has discovered a few films that were made for pleasure. Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, with its glowing views of Paris and its theme of love unexpected; Source Code whose heroine, played by Michele Monaghan, is the kind of enchanting woman that a man would risk all for—and whose sci-fi plot melds perfectly with themes of eternal love worthy of Groundhog Day; the sophisticated pairing of Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp in The Tourist whose cool chemistry amidst the glories of Venice offers old-fashioned goose-bumps.
“There are some good romance, but you have to sift through a lot of gross comedies to find them,” Prudence lets them know. She leaves them with a copy of the film, Management. “Take a look,” she says.
The two women again open a bottle of Cabernet and reflect upon life’s unfairness. Dr. Jill wants to impress upon her friends that she does not discriminate against slackers. “It’s unfair to judge a romantic lead because he’s fat or stupid or lazy. That’s a throw-back to the old oppressive days.”
“Being courted isn’t oppressive—it’s part of being in love,” the author argued. “I think are some magical film-makers out there. Take The Illusionist with Ed Norton and Jessica Biel – the hero loves her so much that he risks everything, he transcends time and space.”
Jill herself has watched The Illusionist more than once. “But that was a fantasy,” she says.
“Yes,” agrees our author. “That’s exactly what a romance requires.”
The two settle into watching Management with Jennifer Aniston and Steve Zahn. Yes, the man is a slacker and not movie-star handsome– but, like Woody, he falls for the girl at once, in this case, despite her indifference. He chases her. He wants her. And when he wins her, the women find themselves unexpectedly moved.
“Love at last,” proclaims Dr. Jill.
“Better at last than never,” says our romance author.