Love. The westernized notion alludes to that frantic search for last minute dinner reservations, overpriced flora and sweeping romantic gestures with scant regard for self-respect or social convention. We’re talking kissing in the rain, the climactic scramble through the airport and montages, so many clothing montages.
The generic Hollywood fare is fine for mindless escapist fun, but for those of us in the real world, they hit wide of the mark when we are looking for unique entertainment or maybe even a relevant love life lesson or two.
But Love, the Judd Apatow-produced Netflix rom-com series is a much more authentic rumination on real life modern day romance. Sure we may not have enough hipster-cool to wow a bunch of strangers with an off-the-cuff Paul McCartney jam or the spontaneity to ramp up that boring regular party to a wild pool party, but the series does take ample time to explore the gritty mundanities of love and dating in the real world – the excitement, angst, confusion fear and Andy Dick drug binges.
So on that note, we wanted to have a further look at films that also approach love and romance with a unique twist. Here are our 10 favorite unconventional love stories streaming on Netflix right now.
If a frank, funny and cutting exploration of gender roles, sexuality, and racial politics in the late '90s seems like the perfect antidote to predictable trappings of the rom-com, then Kevin Smith’s motor-mouthed Chasing Amy may be the film for you.
Though undeniably Smith-esqe, Chasing Amy swaps out the inadvertent necrophilia and ass-seasoned pretzels of Clerks and Mallrats, for a three's a crowd drama that occurs when the sacred bromance between the sexually repressed Banky Edwards (Jason Lee) and Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck) is threatened when Holden smittenly welcomes Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams) - a lesbian and fellow comic book artist - into the fold.
Will the guy get the girl? Will the girl get the girl? Will the guy whose pal wants the girl, get the guy if the girl says no?
Cynical singles who consider society’s obsession with love and relationships a grand conspiracy to rub their noses in their singledom could do worse than turning to Amélie for a renewed sense of hope and vigor. The moral is clear in this contemporary Parisian fable, as Amélie finds true happiness through her genuine and heartfelt efforts to bring warmth and love to those around her.
Sure, on paper this may sound like a preachy diabetes-inducing mess, but Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s humor and warped sensibilities create the perfect balance for this sweet tale. It’s Jeunet at his most playful, Audrey Tautou at her most adorable, and Paris at its most dazzling – and that’s saying something on all three counts.
A Single Man
It’s best to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all… until it is lost, in the worst way, leaving you a suicidal shell of yourself, driven only by the will to finally end the pain. This is where we find Colin Firth in Tom Ford’s achingly beautiful directorial debut about a middle aged professor mourning the recent death of his partner.
On a purely superficial level, it looks stunningly gorgeous. Not a single frame is wasted. It’s beautiful people wearing beautiful clothes in/on beautiful houses/cars/beaches. Firth, though always good, has never been better, Julianne Moore is likewise excellent as the buoyant friend whose own pains are laid bare. Romantic films don’t have to be light and fluffy with a promise of happily ever after. No, sometimes it’s nice to pause, reflect and appreciate.
Boy meets girl, boy likes girl, girl chooses amusement park maintenance guy who makes out with girls in his mom’s basement. It’s an age old tale, but it’s one which Greg Mottola (Superbad) executes with the precise balance of heart and humor to create a nostalgia piece right up there with Dazed and Confused.
While most of us never spent that magical summer working a shitty/life-affirming job at the local dilapidated amusement park, Adventureland feels like a reunion with old friends. Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart are perfect as the would-be slacker couple, Ryan Reynolds surprises as the sleazy maintenance guy whose one (false) claim to fame is that he once jammed with Lou Reed and the scene stealing Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader as the offbeat park supervisors are the icing on the cake.
SPOILER ALERT: Kudos for flipping the kissing in the rain cliché. Who’s going to stand outside in a torrential downpour making out when you can just go inside and have sex. Duh!
Blue Is the Warmest Color
Come for the beautifully evocative coming of age examination of love, life and sexuality. Stay for the liberal lashings of softcore pornography. Unfortunately upon release, much of the attention for this Palme d'Or winner was focused on the latter with the film courting controversy for both its explicit sexual nature and reports of an arduous and oppressive shoot for both cast and crew under director Abdellatif Kechiche.
It’s a shame the film has been pigeonholed as lesbian drama because it is far more accessible than the controversies suggest. The two central performances of Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux are stunning, fearlessly committing to the raw and honest exploration of the joy, madness and pain that comes with falling in and out of love. Romantic films are often light, flippant, escapist day dreams, but viewers seeking a bit more of a challenge this year by way of Blue Is the Warmest Color are in store for a far greater reward.
Long before Adam Sandler was making culturally questionable comedy westerns, he was the kind of guy a director of P.T. Anderson’s repute could call on to carry a movie. On face value it may have reeked of stunt casting, but in Barry Egan, Sandler was able to break straight (kinda), proving to be quite adept at what his more revered contemporaries might refer to as acting.
Anderson too, was making a more concerted move towards the conventional after the three hour plus epic that was Magnolia. Thankfully, as if there was ever a danger, this meeting of minds produced a version of conventional that was anything but. With a downtrodden rage prone hero, phone-sex extortion, and Philip Seymour Hoffman doing his thing as a shady mattress salesmen, Anderson was able to craft a dark and off-kilter film that re-envisioned what a rom-com could be.
Young love is love in its simplest form. Long before mortgages, nagging in-laws, sexual dissatisfaction, and crippling school fees, came a time when everything just made sense. And who better to capture this earnest, naïve and youthful spirit than the king of quirk, Wes Anderson.
Equal parts romance, chase and disaster film (well, Andersons’s version anyway), Moonrise Kingdom centers on two loved-up 12-year-olds, Sam Shakusky, an orphan and Scout Camp deserter, and Susie Bishop, a bookish recluse, who run away to start their life together.
Many of the usual suspects are in attendance and having a great time, including Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and Tilda Swinton, while Hervey Keitel, Edward Norton and Bob Balaban make their first appearances before returning in future Anderson films. Special mention to Bruce Willis, playing it straight with aplomb in Anderson’s world of whimsy.
At a quick glance through the Coen Brothers’ revered canon, one could be forgiven for overlooking this underrated gem, but in a conversation where love reigns supreme, the Coen’s ode to the screwball battle-of-the-sexes comedies of the '30s and '40s is the perfect fit.
Watching the film, it is immediately obvious that it’s one of those rare Hollywood moments where everyone is on the top of their game and they know it. While not as technically flashy as some of their other films, the script remains one of the Coen’s sharpest and funniest. As Miles Massey, the charmingly lecherous industry-leading divorce attorney, George Clooney leans on his matinee looks, his smooth charisma and impeccable comic timing to create one of the Coen Brothers’s most entertaining characters and is matched in equal parts by Cathrine Zeta Jones as the ruthless, gold digging ice queen.
With Billy Bob Thornton, Geoffrey Rush and Richard Jenkins squeezing the most from their smaller roles, Intolerable Cruelty adds up to one of the great homages to the Hollywood's Golden Age.
Let the Right One In
Around the same time Twilight was turning teen vampire romantic dramas into a billion dollar industry, this Thomas Alfredson (Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy) helmed contemporary horror classic had true vampire aficionados licking their lips. Set in Stockholm, in the dark, cold, dead of winter, Let the Right One In excelled in its otherworldly moodiness, buckets of blood, gore and jolting violence. But above else it was the heartfelt emotional core that separates this film from the pack.
If you pare back the brutal murders and bloodlust, this is a simple and deceptively sweet story of two outsiders who find understanding and compassion in each other as their tentative friendship develops into something much deeper. There is an American remake which is fine, but for the real deal, look no further than the original.
I Love You Philip Morris
True stories don’t get much more unbelievable than that of con-man Steven Jay Russell who escaped prison four times, once by faking his own AIDS related death, and embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars to facilitate the lavish lifestyle both he and his partner Philip Morris had grown accustomed to.
Both Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor dazzle as Russell and Morris – two tragic misfits who share a love that it is as vital as it is destructive. A film like this, played for laughs with two straight actors as gay lovers could have turned offensive very quickly, but the directing team of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy, Stupid, Love) never loses respect for the real life relationship that is at the heart of this story.