There are those of you out there who read my last two “top five” posts with sadness. ”It’s a shame, honey,” you said to your better half, “that not everyone has what we have.” For all my rumblings and testosterone driven rants, I am a romantic at heart. And so, today, I offer up my one perfect couples Valentine’s Day movie (for this year): Joe Versus the Volcano.
It’s not necessarily one you would immediately jump to. More current romantic comedies like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days are more obvious and safer. So is the standby classic Casablanca. They are also more saccharine than Joe would ever think to be, and I am not saying that is a bad thing. But the criteria I used to carefully choose this film are very specific.
First, I think the perfect Valentine’s movie cannot be easily labeled a “chick flick.” I love lots of chick flicks, always have. I own The Devil Wears Prada, for Christ sakes. A V-day movie, though, can’t just be about romance and love and females, because I don’t think the ladies have the market cornered on V-day celebration. In the best of worlds, it is a holiday for couples-as-a-unit, and as such has to be about a couple as a unit. The male must be as strong of an element as the female, and the boyfriends and husbands have to buy into the film as much as the girlfriends and wives.
Joe actually cheats on this front, providing us with a Tom Hanks who is the obvious lead. In fact, his love interest isn’t even in large chunks of the movie. But she is, really. Meg Ryan pulls off multiple roles, each one reminiscent of the last while still allowing itself to be wildly different and off-the-wall. This is really what I love about the movie…being able to watch Joe interact with these different versions of Ryan. Though he doesn’t see them as the same character, we do, and we know they will end up together.
My second criterium for a V-day flick is that it be legitimately funny and light. Serious romances may make you cuddle with your significant other, but they bring the mood down and make you contemplate serious questions. Instead, it’s important to let this holiday be a celebration of everything good about love and Romance. There will be a day to wax philosophical about your relationship, but V-day isn’t it. Today is about falling in love all over again…and that’s what you need in the perfect film.
Even though Joe is about a character being diagnosed with a “death cloud” in his brain and choosing to leap into an active volcano to sate an island god, it couldn’t be more lighthearted. Pieced together as a fantasy, the movie lets us wander through scenes and adventures with no real cares or worries. This is helped immensely by Hanks’ performance as a man ready to accept death–exhilarated, even, to be escaping the day-to-day crap of life. And when he falls in love with Meg Ryan, it’s all gravy.
My third criterium is that the movie, itself, has to have some greater cultural significance in the world of love. This movie was the first Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan team up. It’s the first time we saw the sparks fly between them, the first time we got to revel in their quirky personas mixing. This is especially true toward the end of the movie, when Meg Ryan settles into her leading lady role once and for all. She stumbles in and out of the plot as different characters, and it’s as if Tom is searching for her but never finding the right version (common story, eh?). When they do connect, they fall madly in love but without the sap and depth of other romances. It’s just a fun, joyous thing. And we have seen the beginnings of one of the most memorable screen couples ever.
I realize that this didn’t really go into much of the plot or review the film at all, and that was purposeful. I wanted to make my case for this movie on this day without spoiling any of its quirky charm. Also, I avoided doing a top five list for a couple of reasons. First, I thought since you’ve found that one perfect person, you should go with that one perfect movie. A list would cheapen the whole affair. And second, if your relationship is anything like mine have been, you would end up spend hours arguing about which movie you should choose from the list and waste half your night.
So make things easy on yourself. Rent this film, put it in your player, relax, and feel the warm and fuzzies wash over you.