In the unlikely instance that you’ve missed the reminders and warning signs that have filled supermarkets and other shopping establishments for the last six weeks, love is in the air. And not just any kind of love; no, this is the kind of pre-packaged, florescent pink love that belongs to Valentine’s Day, that one day every year when there’s a special amount of pressure to say “I love you” in just the right way or fear societal disgrace.
Well, not everyone will have a date this Saturday, and it’s to those people that this Netflix list is dedicated. Here’s to the romantics who’ll be stuck at home — we’ve chosen some movies for you to watch and wish you had a love like these.
HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940)
If only all work romances could be as stylish and quick-witted as this Howard Hawks adaption of the stage play The Front Page, then HR departments would probably be much busier — and maybe a little more forgiving, as well. After all, if you can’t root for a romance between Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, what can you believe in?
THE APARTMENT (1960)
Another office romance, but Billy Wilder’s wonderful comedy is as much a study in the difference between love and lust — and what it takes to get ahead in the workplace, albeit taken to a ridiculous degree — as it a straight-forward love story. But given the performances of Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, it’ll be the love story that you’ll find yourself thinking of when it’s all over.
Cary Grant returns in this little-known, but almost-perfect parody of a Hitchcock movie that also doubles as a romantic comedy that pairs him with none other than Audrey Hepburn. The two share a particular chemistry that’s electric, even if Grant reportedly had problems with the idea of his character being involved with a woman so much younger than he was. As a bonus, Walter Matthau and James Coburn are worth the price of admission by themselves.
ANNIE HALL (1977)
Put everything that Woody Allen has come to stand for — both his personal relationships and disappointing latter movies — out of your mind and Annie Hall remains an almost-perfect comedy of neuroses and then-modern romance, with Diane Keaton’s performance in the title role being something so specific as to either charm viewers or leave them wondering what in the world Woody Allen sees in her. (Put me in the former category, personally.)
Speaking of charming, off-beat romantic leads, Audrey Tautou’s Amelie Poulain is a character likely to either break hearts or cause viewers with low tolerance for continental whimsy to throw things at their screen. For those who enjoy the sly, sentimental comedy of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s colorful fantasy, there’s a lot to savor here, not least of which a world in which love truly can conquer all.
Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN (2001)
Of course, love comes with its difficulties, as Alfonso Cuaron’s road movie about two best friends who fall in love with the same woman demonstrates. Again, while this manages to offer the ingredients of a “love story” as most would recognize it, what’s truly on offer is something more complicated and less easily categorized — a love story between friends, and how easily that particular spell can be broken.
PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE (2002)
Even more than a decade later, the idea of Adam Sandler in a Paul Thomas Anderson movie that is, ostensibly, a romantic comedy seems like an unlikely proposition, and yet Punch-Drunk Love makes it work in large part thanks to the other actors around him: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Mary Lynn Rajskub and Emily Watson all turn in compelling performances and help Sandler raise his game to another level. Trigger warnings for those who run phone-sex lines and own mattress stores, however.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (2013)
Let’s get a little classical with Joss Whedon’s non-Avengers movie from a couple of years ago, which tackles the text of the William Shakespeare play with a style that’s more contemporary (and just a little mind-bending for anyone who’s followed Whedon’s television career: Why is Wesley hanging out with the nerdy dude from Dollhouse?). It’s not Shakespeare as you’d see it performed in the theater, but just a little bit more alive as a result.
BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR (2013)
This award-winning coming-of-age drama, adapted from a graphic novel by French cartoonist Julie Maroh, is in many ways everything that Amelie isn’t — bittersweet, subtle and erotic, as lead character Adele goes from being an introverted schoolgirl to a woman coming to terms with her sexuality and fidelity, and discovering, ultimately, who she is… as painful a realization as that may be.
THE ONE I LOVE (2014)
Some relationships need work, however, and that’s where this surreal comedy from last year comes in. Think of couples’ therapy, and add a little dash of utter impossibility to things — including the chance to start all over without starting anything new. To explain more would be to ruin the secrets at the heart of the movie, but sometimes, ignorance is bliss.