Thinking back to a time before I was born, did the term a “date movie” even exist before the explosion of multiplexes? Sure, there were romantic comedies, occasionally they were even full-on two-Kleenex romances. But when did people start with the idea that these were the only kinds of movies worthy of taking a date to? Back in the 1950s, or at least what stereotypes have told me, it seems like it was the exact opposite. You could take a date out to a drive-in theater to enjoy a cheesy monster movie. In fact, when it came to taking someone out to a movie, this was ideal. You could talk in the privacy of the car, you could hold onto each other during the “scary” parts (even if there wasn’t anything scary about it), and you could curl up next to your significant other without being bothered by children, ushers, or big hair. It was almost like you were the only two people in the world. You, your date and the silver screen.
If I’m going to find the perfect date movie in today’s age, though, I certainly can’t go to any drive-ins. For reasons unbeknownst to me, drive-in theaters have reached near-extinction nationwide. It might be part of this decade-long crusade against the outdoors, but I digress. No, if anyone takes their first date to the movies, they’re beginning their (potentially) beautiful relationship at the multiplex.
According to these massive theater chains though, the experience of watching a movie doesn’t matter anymore, only the movie that we’re watching. And thus, the concept of a “date movie” was born. A subgenre of the “chick flick” (at least according to Hollywood), a date movie is your typically banal romcom, hitting all the right notes with the audience, making sure not to miss a single pratfall, chase to the airport, or crescendo-ified kiss.
And these have worked for years as date movies. They’re innocent, lighthearted, and if the chemistry between the two leads is right, it just might be able to charm you, and your date. However, in recent years, the typical “date movies” Hollywood puts out have fallen by the wayside. In its place have been slightly more realistic love stories, or at least edgier ones. These typically feature plenty of sexual dialogue, and often times have protagonists who think they’re above the whole concept of romance and true love. These, too, have the ability to charm the audience, but are they really the right movie to take a first date to?
As I write this, now that Bridesmaids is all but gone, there is only one “romantic” comedy within a 20-mile radius of me: Friends with Benefits. Now, this is a very funny movie. It does fall prey to a fair amount of romantic comedy cliches, but the journey to the end certainly is fun. But is it a first date movie? As anyone could imply from the title, the movie is full of writhing bodies not doing much more than rocking the bedposts. There’s even a montage of nothing but sex. The characters often talk disparagingly towards relationships, and one of the only guys who seems to be nice actually turns out to bolt at the crack of dawn. For couples who are past the point of any awkwardness, this would probably be a great date movie. But for the first date, with all of its innocence and even awkwardness, a movie with as much sex talk as this might not be the best choice.
But as I think back on the past couple of years in film, I realize that these have what romantic comedies have mostly become about. They talk about sex and usually there’s at least one or two main characters who don’t believe in finding true love or hate relationships. I, on the other hand, am simply looking for a nice, charming movie that may not focus too much on the relationship aspect. But this attitude has pervaded these “date movies” over the past few years. Take, for instance, the best romantic comedy in a long time, (500) Days of Summer (starring none other than Ms. Zooey Deschanel). As a matter of fact, this movie is so great because it takes a realistic look at relationships, dealing with the good and the bad. And the painful. In fact, the titular character doesn’t even believe in true love. She finds it eventually, although with someone other than our protagonist. No, poor Tom is stuck in what I like to call a Romantic’s Limbo. He’s going to keep on dating girls and thinking each one is The One. It’s a really delightful film, but it hits hard several times when it comes to relationships, so it won’t work for that first date charm.
If all these romantic comedies, the genre that is supposed to have all the go-to “date movies”, can’t provide this kind of charm, what can one turn towards these days? I’ve polled a lot of personal friends on the topic, trying to find out what people look for in a date movie. As I wrote earlier, results will vary and it all depends on which person you are going with. The overall verdict, though, seems to be that most people enjoy something lighthearted. If it’s something that can make you laugh and doesn’t feel any emotional manipulation, it can typically be a good movie to take a date to. A nice escapist comedy is usually a safe bet, and a little romantic side to the movie doesn’t hurt either. Quality does matter, though. You can’t just see the same romcom that’s been done over and over again and expect to be impressed. So where does that leave us, the moviegoers, at the multiplex? Nowhere, pretty much.
At least, that’s what I thought until I saw Midnight in Paris. Now this is a truly magical movie. I don’t want to say too much about it and spoil the plot, but it just might be the movie I’ve been looking for this whole time. It’s a film with the kind of atmosphere that just wraps you up in a cozy blanket and whispers you a lullaby. Of course the 1920s scenes are magical, but even in the present day, Woody Allen is able to make every little facet of Paris absolutely lovely. Everything is awash with warm colors and it makes you want to inhabit the world these characters live in. It is romantic without being schmaltzy, funny without being obnoxious, and creates a sense of movie magic and charm thatâs rarely seen at the theater anymore. In today’s age, this just might be the perfect date movie. The answer to all of our problems. It is the ultimate movie to take a date to. How do I know?
I took a girl to see it. We held hands.
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