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Bad Romance: The Least Convincing Love Stories On Film

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    Carol – the film of the year; nominated for everything; 94% on rotten tomatoes; rave reviews; Cate Blanchett; Rooney Mara; a vaguely Christmas-looking set. Carol – the film that has it all. Except that the two main characters have some of the worst chat in love’s history. Admittedly, there’s no accounting for the strength of body language and what’s left unsaid, but some good stuff has to actually be said in order to create a great love story. Do these script lines read burning passion to you?

    Carol’s opening line: “What was your favourite doll when you were four?”
    Therese: “Me? I never… Not many, to be honest.”

    Carol: “What do you do on Sundays?
    Therese: “Nothing in particular, what do you do?
    Carol: “Oh, nothing.”

    There’s the critical car scene where Carol says something about how much she loves snow [it is snowing at the time] then a couple of beers and a loose dressing gown later, it’s the sauciest affair of 2015. IS IT?

    Oscar Wilde said “You get married to continue the conversation.” At least I thought that’s what he said, but it appears what he actually said was: “Ultimately the bond of all companionship, whether in marriage or in friendship, is conversation”. Who knew you could effectively paraphrase Oscar Wilde, the point being: in matters of the heart, conversation matters, at least as much as a good director and good actors matter. All too often we as viewers are seduced by sexy directing and witty editing and end up mistaking style for love.

    Carol is remarkably well acted and directed, and the overflowing nominations are proof of that, but, but, but, there’s not even a barrel scrape of banter; in fact the only joke they share is when, this one time, Carol runs out of cigarettes. I’m all for subtlety and subtext, but, for real, if this is the height of love, I’m applying for a human emotion refund.

    Here are four more so-called love stories based on the definition of awkward chat.

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    Driver and Irene in Drive

    Drive is undoubtedly one of the sexiest films in history and its director Nicolas Winding Refn a full-throttle genius. The soundtrack that England played on repeat; the devastatingly artful five-minute opening scene; the drive up the curb when “Real Hero” plays, the lift scene – wait, let’s hang on the lift scene a while. For those living outside the border of Ryan Gosling, the lift scene is when Ryan – the only man who can make people spontaneously effervesce while wearing a white satin jacket – kisses Carey Mulligan in slow motion in a lift, before promptly kicking someone’s head in. There’s so much about Drive that I love, which I proceeded to explain to a friend before watching it with him. Then three-quarters of the way through, when Ryan is carrying Carey’s son on his shoulders, blissfully in love with her – and when I thought my friend was in the same state of silent admiration as me – he cracked and yelled in frustration at the screen: “HOW HAS THIS LOVE STORY HAPPENED, NO ONE HAS SAID ANYTHING THIS ENTIRE FILM”. He did have a point.

    People on the internet, similarly irked, counted the number of words Ryan Gosling says in Drive. It’s a surprising 937, but barely any of them are to his great love Carey Mulligan. Some further irked people wrote this spoof script:

    Hi stranger. Ignore the expression of infinite worry on my face, I'm attracted to you.

    Because I'm mysterious and alluring, right?

    I was going to go with bland and possibly autistic, but sure. Mostly I'm just happy you didn't confuse me with Michelle Williams. Anyway, we should take another page from the ‘80s and use a montage sequence to show us falling in love.

    RYAN GOSLING (blank stare)
    Mmmm. I should spend some of my ten lines bonding with your kid.

    I buy into all of the intense staring they both do as a show of love, but if you break down the interactions between Carey and Ryan, it’s like, a joke. Watch the clip and the penny will drop; I'm sorry.

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    Ian Curtis and Annik Honoré in Control

    Has the moment passed for a kickstarter called 'Help Annik get some personality?' In her bid to woo Joy Division’s front man, Ian Curtis, one of the most loved and misunderstood musicians in history, Annik’s winning chirpse goes like this:

    Annik: "What’s your favourite colour? Mine is purple."

    Thank you, Annik.

    This isn’t just because we’re on team Deborah Curtis (Ian’s wife – he had a long-standing affair with Annik), it’s because, after an adolescence spent listening to "Love Will Tear Us Apart", it was a little disheartening to learn that the love that tore was predicated on this sort of chat. Well, to be clear, it’s a film script, and there’s a good chance the script doesn’t give Annik a fair go; perhaps the screen writer was also Team Deborah.

    Other crucial Annik scenes include her first – where she interviews the band – and asks in dulcet tones:

    Annik: “Does anyone believe in love?”

    Not this one, babes.

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    Gatsby and Daisy in The Great Gastby

    Can you two stop gasping please, we’re trying to watch one of the greatest love stories in literature. Gatsby and Daisy (Leo and Carey Mulligan again)’s first encounter in Baz Luhrmann’s either slated or praised adaptation goes like this:

    Gatsby: [Gasp, Gasp]
    Daisy: [Gasp]
    Gatsby: [Gasp, Gasp]
    Daisy: [Gasp, Gasp]
    Gatsby: [Gasp, Gasp, Gasp, Gasp]
    Daisy: [Gasp, Gasp]
    Gatsby: [Gasp, Gasp]
    Daisy: [Gasp, Gasp, Gasp]
    Daisy: "I’m certainly glad to see you again."
    Gatsby: "I’m certainly glad to see you as well."

    Smooth, guys. There are whisperings that we can’t hear, which presumably is utterly compelling love chat, but highlights from the audible flirting include:

    Gatsby: "I have a man in England who buys me clothes."
    Daisy: "I’ve never seen anything like it."

    [Gatsby throws his clothes at her]

    Gatsby: "These are silk, these are flannel, Indian cotton, linen… "
    Daisy: "Stop it! Nicky, he’s a mad man!"

    Strip away the Lana Del Rey soundtrack and exceptional Prada wardrobe, and it’s difficult to see why Daisy and Gatsby are so convinced they’ve found it. Admittedly, this is sort of Fitzgerald's point – and the tragedy of Gatsby – that he believes in something so completely when it’s actually quite empty, and this goes for Daisy, love, wealth and worldly possessions.

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    Almost all Disney Films

    The Little Mermaid, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are but three of Disney’s romances founded on a wisp. At least Ariel had witty gestures, but abandoning your entire species and half of your body for someone who says things like:

    Eric: “Is your name Mildred? How about Diana? Rachel?”

    ;someone who doesn’t even kiss you when you’re literally floating in a blue lagoon alone together and the entire underwater world is singing in beautiful percussion unison “Kiss the Girl”; someone who very nearly marries an octopus in disguise over you – is unwise.

    Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are unconscious when love strikes. I rest my case.

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    Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett in their first scene together in Carol.