Growing up, I was never one of those girls who had boyfriends in elementary and middle school. While everyone around me paired up, I unsuccessfully tried to bribe my 2nd grade crush into liking me with Sodalicious Fruit Snacks and judgmentally informed my best friend she should act like she was “seven, not seventeen.” Don’t get me wrong, I was very interested in boys and romance. There just was never anyone interested back. As a result, I became pretty obsessed with movies about love. I’m not using the word “obsessed” casually; I’m talking collages-on-my-walls, hysterical-crying-fits-before-bed fanaticism. Three movies in particular shook me to my core to the point where if I couldn’t actually live inside the characters, I was fairly certain I didn’t want to live at all.
It’s hard for me to write about My Girl without feeling like a lovesick 2nd grader again. The story takes place in the summer of 1972 when our protagonist, the death-obsessed and hypochondriacal Vada Sultenfuss, is eleven years old. Over one transformative summer, she watches her emotionally-detached father fall in love, discovers her talent for writing, experiences her first kiss, gets her period, and (SPOILER ALERT but honestly if you haven’t seen this movie there’s nothing I can do to help you) deals with the death of her best friend, Thomas J., played with adorable geekiness by one Macaulay Culkin. Did I mention that his death is mood ring-related? And that I wanted to be Vada so badly, dead mom and all, that I would dress like her and even try to act out that part where she and Thomas J. spy on her dad and Shelley playing Bingo? The crux of this movie is that Vada believes she is in love with her writing teacher when really she is, of course, in love with Thomas J. Only she realizes this when it’s already too late. This movie is a heartbreaking coming-of-age story that somehow still managed to make me covet Vada’s life. You don’t have to feel too sorry for her, though, because in My Girl 2 she hooks up with her extremely hot sort-of-cousin.
Meet Joe Black
I definitely owned this movie on VHS but because it’s super long it came in one of those boxes with not one but two tapes so if you wanted to just watch the first half or just watch the second half, it was that much easier, but honestly, why would I ever watch anything other than the whole film in its entirety? The somewhat convoluted suspend-disbelief-and-all-human-logic-starting-now story centers around the character of Death entering Brad Pitt’s body and enlisting Anthony Hopkins as his guide to life on Earth. Of course, he falls in love with Hopkins’ beautiful daughter, played by Claire Forlani, which complicates things greatly, as love is wont to do. By the way, what the heck happened to Claire Forlani’s career? When this movie came out, I was pretty sure we had discovered our newest Greatest Movie Star of All Time. At the very least, she was the most beautiful creature I’d ever laid eyes on. Not sure what went wrong there (unless it was her role in a little movie called Meet Joe Black). Anyway, Claire and Death-in-the-form-of-Brad-Pitt begin a tortured and bizarre love affair, as Death has never before experienced any earthly pleasures such as peanut butter or love-making. But of course their relationship is doomed unless Claire is willing to die and join him in his heavenly home. The movie is long, windy, and irrational, but the tortured emotionality of the premise was enough to have me seriously wishing that Death would come to claim me for his own and possibly bed me beside an awesome indoor pool.
Yet another so-long-it-required-two-VHS-cassettes fun pack that I owned and cherished. As you probably have heard, this miraculous film is being re-released this spring in 3D and I may or may not be flying across the country in order to watch it with a friend who shares my obsession. I was 13 when this movie came out which means I was one of those girls who saw it no less than eight times in theaters and was legitimately offended when I saw people wearing tee-shirts that read, “It Sank, Get Over It.” Titanic is, of course, about the sinking of the famous ship, but really it’s about the romance between Rose DeWitt Bukater, a wealthy member of the upper-class, and Jack Dawson, a drifter/artist. Doomed from the start, their love is passionate and groundbreaking, set to the now-famous Celine Dion ballad that literally still makes my stomach churn with excessive emotion. And yes, for many years I harbored deep fantasies about someone drawing me wearing only a necklace, and yes, that steamy handprint in the carriage is emblazoned on whatever portion of my brain handles confusing-sexual-feelings-at-an-early-age, and yes, it made no sense at the end that Rose couldn’t just move over slightly and let Jack share the raft with her instead of numbly watching him sink into the freezing ocean, and yes the old lady version of Rose is insane for throwing away that necklace even if it did make for a good Britney Spears reference many years later but I didn’t care then and I don’t care now because this movie CHANGED MY LIFE and probably changed yours too in ways of which you aren’t even fully aware.
There was some magical hoodoo voodoo going on when I watched these movies as a kid, some intangible chemical reaction that I’ve never quite experienced since. Sure, I’m excited to see The Lucky One when it comes out and I once threw a Twilight-themed birthday party, but I’m not curled in my bed weeping silently every night because I’ll never get to touch Edward Cullen’s glittering skin. That kind of tortured obsession seemed only to be possible when I was young and inexperienced myself, and these movies let me feel like I was dipping my toe into the pool of romance that surely lay ahead of me, just barely beyond my reach. I felt actual pain and suffering over the fact that I couldn’t be Vada or Claire Forlani or Rose Dewitt Bukater, and even though I’m grown up now, it’s a feeling I could probably call up far too easily. Anyone have a Discman and the CD single of the GooGoo Dolls’ “Black Balloon”?