Sunday, February 20, 2011

Unforgettable Lines

If you’ve seen a romantic comedy in the last ten years, you’ve probably drawn the same conclusion as I: writers don’t like romantic comedies. I’m not sure why this is. My theory runs along the lines that writers, like all romantics, either die young or become cynics; therefore, most of the writers for these romantic comedies must be really, really old. And really, really cynical.

The weekend I watched another in a long line of “I hate romantic comedies” romantic comedy, No Strings Attached. It had Natalie Portman, who is a fine actress; and Ashton Kutcher who is nowadays a normal stock option for romantic comedies, he’s pretty, he’s funny, he delivers. I’m not sure what this particular movie was doing, but it was neither particularly romantic nor particularly comical. It had moments—it really did, scenes that I thought “This would be good in a book”—but overall, this couple is going to be divorced in two years.

It wasn’t the hero—the hero was wonderful. Ashton Kutcher essentially played the same guy he played in A Lot Like Love: nice, sweet, charming, vulnerable, and completely in love with a woman who would rather gut him like a fish. I really didn’t get it. It’s almost the reverse of a lot of movies, where the heroine is the long-suffering character and the hero is a complete jackass for ¾ of the film. I guess there wouldn’t be a story arc if at least one of the characters weren’t emotionally stunted. I mean the heroine was really emotionally stunted, from beginning to end. Hopeless, completely hopeless; and I couldn’t figure out why she was this way. I’m not sure the writer knew why the heroine was such a mess. It felt like one of those books where the writer didn’t flesh out her characters too deeply, hoping that the audience didn’t notice. I did.

I seriously wondered if the hero was going to meet someone who was less of an emotional fuckwit and punish the supposed heroine like she deserved. It didn’t appear that was going to happen, and I wondered what I was going to say to my friend after this movie was over. I didn’t want to say, “What a craptastic movie!” because she’d bought the ticket. But then a miracle happened. THE LINE was played. The line where I thought, “Huh, I might own this movie after all, just so I can watch this line over and over.”

At the end of No Strings Attached, there was that perfect line. The line you went to the movie for or read the end of the book for; the line you wish your Mr. Right would say to you. Better than a box of chocolates in rich sweetness and toothache. And yet there I was in my red theater seat, thinking, “She was the one who was a complete dipshit this whole movie. Why is he saying the line?” It was like he nullified any character growth she might have had.

But then I thought, well, heroines don’t say THE LINE that makes us all swoon at the romance. It’s the man who says the line. It’s tradition. This is a chick flick after all, and we want the man to say the thing we’ve been waiting to hear all our lives. So when the guy has been a jerk all this time and he says THE LINE, it’s proof that he’s changed. It’s proof that not only is it going to work, it’s going to last forever. (Sorry, I was having a Wedding Planner moment there.)

Wait. I’ve just thought of the reverse example. Jerry MacGuire—Tom Cruise rambles on for a bit at the end, after he’s spent so much of the movie screwing it up, and Renee cuts across him and says, “Shut up. You had me at hello.” In that case, she had THE LINE. That’s what the line is, right? It’s THE LINE of the movie we all remember. No matter what else happened in the movie, we could forget plot or characters or scenes, but we never forget THE LINE.

When Harry Met Sally: “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

Blast From the Past: (this is between a secondary character and the heroine—but this line made this movie for me) Troy: “Eve, a man walks into your life that is the kindest, most polite, most incredibly rich guy you’ve ever met….” Eve: “And I have him committed.”

The Holiday: (not the end of the movie, but when you hear this line, you totally want to cry) Miles to Iris: “Iris, if you were a melody…I used only the good notes.” *seriously swoon*

Leap Year: “I don't want not to make plans with you. I want to make plans with you.”

The Wedding Date: (a completely forgettable movie except for this line)—“I'd rather fight with you than make love with anyone else.”

So have you thought about the last line of your novels? Do you know any novels that had a line in them that you just couldn’t forget, even if you forgot the characters’ names or even the plot? What about movies? Do you know any perfectly forgettable movies with THE LINE that makes you forgive just about anything?


Hellion said...

I apologize in advance for the lameness of this blog. Was seriously drawing a blank and it's the 11th hour. *LOL* I'll do better next week.

2nd Chance said...

I always loved the line in "As Good As It Gets" when Jack Nicholson says "You make me want to be a better man."

And there was a great one in last year's movie, "Valentine's Day" that I cannot remember...

With my writing there is always the line I put in Emily's mouth... "I don’t care if I’m insane, Alan. I’d rather be deranged with you than sentenced to a sane, ordinary life here."

I liked that!

Wasn't the last line. The last line was ... Three days later, the camper was towed to the impound lot.

Not terribly romantic, but it was about leaving the old life behind and embracing the new... ;-)

Quantum said...

I think it was 'Harry met Sally' where Meg Ryan simulates an orgasm at a restaurant dining table, in order to prove a point.

That was awesome but the line I remember most was from one of the other diners. "Waiter, I'll have what she ordered"

That line in the context of that scene was unforgettable!

It would be good in a novel too, or perhaps it already is?

hal said...

I'm going to second Chance here with the "As Good as it Gets" example. That's a great line.

"Three to Tango" is another lame rom-com that I've always loved, and that's another one where the heroine gets the line, because the hero is rambling, and she says "I get the left side of the bed." Ahhhhhh.

I don't know that I have one unforgettable line in my WIP, but now I feel like i need to add one *g*

I think I'm finally getting the hang of all this baby stuff to be back and paying attention to what's going on here -- thanks for all the congrats, pirates!

Marnee said...

I am horrible with movies. Truly awful.

One that's pretty good, though I forget the words he said, was that Made of Honor movie, with Patrick Dempsey. The black moment, not exactly THE LINE, but when he's standing at her door, trying to tell her about the kiss they had.

Heartbreaking, for both of them.

And at the end, when he comes and crashes her wedding. Oh, I guess this is it, the Line. She gets to say it though. "Thomas Bailey, you are the worst maid of honor ever."

They were a couple I could see staying together.

I haven't thought of a LINE yet for my story. I need to get closer. Usually, if I'm lucky, these lines just come to me. Please, oh universe, allow a line like this to come to me.

WELCOME BACK, Hal! And welcome to the land of the sleepy.

Bosun said...

Sorry. Day off. Slept in.

This isn't lame at all, I like this topic. Especially since we'll continue to talk about romance tomorrow with Santa.

I don't know that my book has THE LINE, but now I have to look at the end. *looks* Heh, not bad. And the heroine says it, thank goodness. She was the problem through the whole story. Whew!

I love the line from Moulin Rouge (which I know is not a rom com) of "The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love, and be loved in return." sigh.

Welcome back, Hal! I spent yesterday with a 2 mos old who is just now reaching 7lbs. She's utterly adorable and I loved holding her all day, but there were a couple times there she was just pissed. LOL! Reminds me I don't want to do that again.

Not that I needed a reminder, but still.

Hellion said...

2nd, I thought of As Good as It Gets. That is a great line.

And great quote from your work as well--it reminds me of The Wedding Date quote I provided. :)

It doesn't have to be the last line, but I have noticed these lines tend to happen at the end of the movies, at that resolution scene. They've had the black moment and they're making up--and right here is where they say the line that makes all this suffering worthwhile. *LOL* That's the line I love.

Hellion said...

Quantum, that line is truly immortal. *LOL* I am certain NASA is shooting that line into space for alien life forms to understand humans better. For which the aliens will probably say, "Humans don't understand the opposite sex any better than we do. Damn." Not that I expect aliens to believe humans know anything worth knowing. Pretty sure we're the cockroaches of the Milky Way.

I'm not sure I've seen that line in a novel yet, but I haven't read every novel out there--it's quite possible!

Hellion said...

Hal, great to see you again, new mommy! And that is a perfect THE LINE example. *LOL* And a triple point play at quoting a line the woman uses!!

I haven't seen Three to Tango yet, but now I kinda want to. (Oddly, I sleep on the left side of the bed. Just a fun fact.)

Hellion said...

Marnee, I loved that movie, not the least of which because the groom was just as hot to me as Patrick Dempsey was. I was never quite sure why she gave up the Scotsman for Patrick, but whatever. I love that line. I'm going to have to watch that movie again. *LOL* I have it.

Hellion said...

Bo'sun, I was THIS CLOSE to quoting Moulin Rouge, just because that line is so memorable. *LOL* I also wanted to quote the Notebook, but then I reined myself in.

Do you agree with me the bigger troublemaker in the movie should probably be the one who says THE LINE? Or are there instances where THE LINE said by the other person works? It seems like in Three to Tango, the non-trouble-maker said THE LINE and it all worked out. *LOL* And also in Made of Honor.

Bosun said...

I guess it depends on what makes the line good. As you say, Rom Coms are geared toward a female audience and most of the time, we want the hero to say that heart-melting line. But if it's the line that makes all the conflict seem resolved, then it should be said by the character who fueled the conflict more.

In other words, it could go either way. LOL!

There are so many great lines in The Notebook. Damn you, Sparks! *waves fist in air*

Donna said...

Welcome, Hal -- I love how you just slid in and answered as if you hadn't produced another pirate! Hope all is well with you.

Great post, Hellion. I have my own theories about why romantic comedies are "less than satisfying". I think one reason is because movies are made by committee, and people who don't know anything about romance OR comedy will make changes, so the script has an uneven feel to it, more a collection of scenes than a movie with an arc to it.

I also think people forget how hard it is to do both romance and comedy. It's easier to blow shit up or have a car chase than to express emotion and feelings. It's even harder to have just the right blend of romance and comedy. Each of these components have to interact with each other, not just be separate elements ("Okay, we said something funny, so let's have something romantic happen now".)

I don't have enough movie knowledge to whip out a line, so I'll have to do some research first. LOL

Hellion said...

Donna, you're right. Comedy is far more subjective than an action flick. Action is pretty cut and dried. You have a bad guy and a good guy, and someone is running from the other one or shooting at them. Comedy...well, you have Will Ferrell and you have Billy Crystal and you have Adam Sandler. You have lovers and haters of all these guys. There is no ambivalence.

hal said...

Thanks guys *g*. It's been fun, in spite of a limited amount of sleep. He's a pretty contented baby so far -- really only cries if he's hungry, which is easy enough to solve. Last night he slept for four hours straight, which is the longest stretch so far. Sooooo nice - lol.

Bosun said...

Happy babies are the best. Well, all babies are pretty awesome, but those happy, contented ones are easier to live with. LOL!

Love the pics I've seen on FB. He's so cute!

Marnee said...

Last night he slept for four hours straight, which is the longest stretch so far. Sooooo nice

Bless his little baby heart. That's some good stuff. :)

Quantum said...

Quantum, that line is truly immortal. *LOL* I am certain NASA is shooting that line into space for alien life forms to understand humans better.

Helli, the planet earth is beaming this stuff into space all the time.
I reckon that's why we haven't seen any aliens yet!

Or perhaps they're here incognito, lapping it all up. :lol:

Quantum said...

PS Congrats on the new arrival Hal!
Is it a boy or a girl? ..... I know its NOT an alien! *grin*

2nd Chance said...

I think Donna is right about romantic comedy, and they even screw things up when they have a perfectly good book to guide the way. But I can't generally complain, I'm a very forgiving viewer, who will just skim over the stuff I don't care for and focus on the stuff I do...

I do tend to thing the one doing the most resisting is the one who needs to say the line, but then again, sometimes it's the other and the resiter's reaction is where the shift in perspective takes place...because of THE LINE.

Hal- He's bee-oo-tiful!

2nd Chance said...

Sigh, that shoulda been think, not thing...

Quantum said...

Ah, So the baby is a He!
I'll bet he's really handsome. :D

I'm not gonna say bee-oo-tiful
Don't want to give the fella a complex this early in life! *grin*

Irisheyes said...

Congrats, Hal!!! I'm sending all my positive mommy mojo your way. Here's hoping you're both sleeping through the night soon. :)

Irisheyes said...

I like this blog, Hellie!

I don't know if it qualifies since it is spoken from the hero to the heroine but about the hero's brother. But this line has stayed with me for years! Every time I think about it it brings tears to my eyes.

It's from Lorraine Heath's western, Texas Destiny. The hero's brother has just married the heroine and she's a little frightened about the wedding night. Seeing how the hero is her best friend she asks his advice and for some reassuring words. He's a bit upset at first and then seeing her fear he says something like - "Don't worry. He'll cover your body with his and then he'll do what he always does. He'll give the best of himself."

Of course, it's the hero that ends up "giving the best of himself", but it was such a poignant scene I've always remembered it.

Hellion said...

Yeah, Irish, that was THE LINE. *LOL* Even if it was earlier in the book. I'm so glad you hooked me on those books, even if it took me several months to find my own copies. :)

Hellion said...

Here's the line in question I liked so much.

"I'm warning you, if you take one step closer, I'm never letting you go."

Out of context, it sounds like he's a stalker/sociopath, but in context it was really hot and really sweet.

2nd Chance said...

It does sound a bit stalker-ish, but that makes it even sweeter when two people know each other so well, they get it!