Stormy days in Sweet Home Alabama…

When Movie Movie Blog Blog‘s announcement of the April Showers Blogathon came up, I naturally thought of all the great romantic rain scenes (because there’s something about that ultimate declaration of love just as the rain starts coming down) and to mind came Sweet Home Alabama (2002). But then I read the announcement again. Hmm, not simply any scene but one that is important to the plot. Oooh, yes, my selection still holds. Yaay. Why?

(The next bit may spoil things for you, so, don’t carry on reading if you plan to watch this one for the first time).

Here goes…

The opening scene is of two children, Jake and Melanie, running on the beach during a lightning storm. They are looking for the glass formations caused by lightning striking the sand and…they end up sharing a kiss. At this point Melanie asks Jake why he wants to be married to her to which he replies “So I can kiss you anytime I want” and lightning strikes them.  A present-day Melanie (Reese Witherspoon) is awoken from this flashback dream. We soon find out that she is a successful fashion designer and in a relationship with New York Mayor’s son, Andrew (Patrick Dempsey). When he proposes to her (and she accepts), she heads off to Alabama to tell her parents in person. However, the real reason she goes there alone is to finalise the divorce from her estranged husband…Jake (Josh Lucas). While in her hometown, she is reminded of her past and who she really is. Anyway…back to the rain…

The rain serves more than just a romantic backdrop. Firstly, we learn that Jake had, in fact, followed Melanie to New York shortly after they split up and at which point had realised that he needed to make something of himself before he could win her back. The sand formations, and subsequently a range of exclusive glassware, are his means of “conquering the world”. This would never have been possible without the rain, more specifically the lightning.

Secondly, it serves an important role at Melanie and Andrew‘s wedding. Normally, you’d expect sunny skies at such a special day, however, in this case, the rain brings the smiles. As soon as Melanie decides not to marry Andrew (I did warn you about spoilers), the heavens burst open. Like a huge sigh of relief (even if a little cliché). A washing away of the past and secrets to bring a new, fresh beginning. But, it also brings the story back to the two children we met in the opening scene, now adults, still in love: while Jake is gathering his glass formations (to avoid the wedding) and Melanie comes to the beach to collect her husband, there isn’t just lightning as in the opening but also rain. To me, a symbol that finally, he has made something of himself and she’s being herself. The storm almost shows their stormy relationship stage is over and they can move forward together. It is now his chance to ask her why she wants to be married to him to which she gives the same line he gave her as a child: “So I can kiss you anytime I want”



Subtly Sexy Pride and Prejudice

Certain scenes have this amazing ability to transfer their energy, their passion, their desire to the viewer. I can’t really explain that feeling I get when this happens. It is quite wierd but wonderful and takes a very strange form. There’s a twisting, no, hmmm, squeezing, no, well, I can’t describe it, but just that there’s this feeling I get roughly in the centre of my abdomen and I think my fingers too. It sneaks up on me and I never know when to expect it. Sometimes it happens at a totally different point of the developing relationship, sometimes the same spot and sometimes not at all on the subsequent viewings. So, I can’t really pin-point the feeling. Does anyone know what I’m talking about? Anyway, so, to be perfectly honest, I don’t often get this feeling for an entire movie, usually just certain scenes. Except with Pride and Prejudice (2005). I found myself feeling with Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet from their initial encounter right to the end. So, I’d say this movie just does it for me throughout.

Before I continue though, I just want to say that this post is not meant to be a literary analysis of the book or the movie, so please put the “literary” meanings and correctness aside for the next few paragraphs and also ignore how good an adaptation the movie is.

The sexiness starts from their first encounter. At the first dance event Mr Darcy, Mr Bingley and Caroline Bingley walk down the centre of the guests, Mr Darcy and Elizabeth catch each other’s eyes. It is not very obvious but they both briefly hesitate and I’m already sensing the chemistry. What heightens this for me is the lovely scenario where she’s able to talk to Mr Bingley so easily while Mr Darcy looks on. They’re very much aware of each other and in a strange way, I think this is such a wonderful flirt. Or, rather wonderful subconscious sexual tension. And then, this is turned up even more for me once he makes it clear he doesn’t dance and she goes on to enjoy herself anyway and has him watching her. Ah, there’s just something sexy about being watched by the man you’re attracted to while you’re pretending your not interested and hence just having fun! It is also sexy when a woman continues to enjoy herself and not putting her evening on hold because of a man. This dance is so full of sexiness: they have a go at each other around poetry shortly after Elizabeth overheard him say to Mr Bingley that she is “Barely tolerable, I dare say. But not handsome enough to tempt me”. I think this is a typical case of not admitting to a friend that you actually do like the person in question. And Elizabeth is not shy to tell him that she recommends “Dancing. Even if one’s partner is barely tolerable.” to “encourage affection.”

While Jane is sick at the Bingley residence, Elizabeth comes to visit. As she enters, Mr Darcy is totally reeling. That he didn’t bump the whole table or knock something over is amazing! You can see his gaze fixated on her long after she leaves. They’re so sensually sunk they don’t even know it yet. But I do. He’s oblivious to everything, even the snotty comments from Caroline go over his head. What a great man! He is totally smitten.

The most sexually charged scene for me is when Elizabeth departs from the Bingley house and Mr Darcy ever so briefly touches her hand to help her up. Both feel it. Without a doubt. I think he walks off flexing and contracting his hand less out of disgust but from being totally thrown from the electricity that was clearly there. I just love the potential it suggests.

Oh! Ah, what a scene where they dance together and end up being the only two people in the universe at that point. How could you miss that electricity where everyone else literally no longer exists.

Throughout the movie they catch each other’s gaze, breaking eye contact the moment the other looks at them. Both playing this game neither cares to admit. And each time, my tummy does that tumble. Ooh, and the most tummy tumbling scene is at the Bingley’s ball where they are clearly looking for each other. Searching, hoping not to but hoping to see each other and yet again playing a flirtatious game climaxing with him asking her to dance and getting a yes, surprising them both.

The visit to Lady Catherine is another lovely scene. Mr Darcy is just standing there watching her. Once again, their attraction is screaming out loud! And to unintentionally help things along, Lady Catherine seats them together. I’m sure the attractive static between them is enough to set even more sparks on fire. But, absolutely beautiful is when Elizabeth is playing the piano. In the background, Mr Darcy keeps looking over at her. He just can’t keep his eyes off her. And I think she knows that. She is secretly hoping he’ll notice her. Hoping he’ll come over. And when he finally does, she tempts him with “You mean to frighten me, Mr. Darcy, by coming in all your state to hear me, but I won’t be alarmed even if your sister does play so well.” to which he replies “I am well enough acquainted with you, Miss Elizabeth, to know that I can not alarm you, even should I wish it.”

There are so many more tingling moments but I won’t go into them all, like the lip biting Mr Darcy briefly does when he wants to know if Elizabeth often walks with Mr Wickham, or…or…

But how can one not get all woozy with that scene near the end where neither could sleep and they meet up in the misty morning (or is it evening?). “You have bewitched me body and soul” oh for someone to get such a compliment…it just does it for me…


A Movie Gift to You Blogathon


The Last of the Mohicans (1992) and my daughter (albeit only in a couple of years), without a moment of doubt the two things that immediately came to mind when I stumbled across this Blogathon. Why this combination? Well…because she’s a girl, but not a “girly-girl” who’s into dainty characters and, because I just want to share my all-time favourite with her. The passion, the adventure, the music. I want her to experience the anticipation, the intrigue, the relationships, the time spent falling in love that special first time watching a movie. I think she deserves to be moved by this story like I was and still am (Yes, there is also the brutality of humans on show but it is never what comes to mind first). And, who wouldn’t want to give their daughter what they think is the best? Well, not necessarily the best but the best for that person.

Briefly, the story is around two sisters (Cora and Alice) who make their way to their father who is stationed at Fort William Henry. At the same time, three frontiersmen (Chingachgook, Uncas and Hawkeye) make their way west and circumstances bring them all together. Thus they navigate through the dangers of the French and Indian war. Not romantic? Well, you’d be surprised.

The Last of the Mohicans is decorated with the most beautiful musical ribbon. Winding its way through the movie, sometimes gently, sometimes a little firmer but never overbearing, never harsh, it is that special touch that gives the perfect finishing. One that evokes so much more than the picture alone could. In fact, when immersing myself in only the soundtrack, I relive the film wishing I was there.

Then, midst the beautiful scenery, come the individual adventures of such different characters, woven together to form a single sheet of wrapping paper. Each contributing to the whole where none would make sense without the other. I like a strong yet gentle woman who is able to make her own decisions while taking the advice of those important to her yet never being needy. Such is Cora Munro. Hawkeye (Nathaniel Poe) is always the way a person should be: true to themselves and not changing their behaviour when they are with the woman they fall for to what they are like when she isn’t there. I love the scene where he is helping the colonial militia prepare to escape Fort William Henry. Here he stays true to his cause yet also to Cora. The light exchange of “I’ve got a reason to stay.”, “That reason wear a striped skirt and work in the surgery?” and “It does. No offense, but it’s a better looking reason than you…” always makes me smile. I think they are the perfect fit and equals to each other. Uncas, the last Mohican, lives his life and never puts himself in a safe place because he is the last of a People, falling in love with Alice. His father, Chingachgook, is such a great man and amazing parent who supports his two sons (Uncas and Hawkeye) equally despite Hawkeye not being of his blood. So their lives and wonderful characters all converge to form this adventure.

But, the core of this beautifully wrapped gift is this: the romance and the loyalty. Of Hawkeye and Cora, but also Uncas and Alice. Never soppy, always passionate and powerful. To me, the most romantic notion ever comes from the scene where Hawkeye tells Cora “You be strong, you survive… You stay alive, no matter what occurs! I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you”. And then, just as romantic is when Cora says “You’ve done everything you can do. Save yourself! If the worst happens, and only one of us survives, something of the other does, too.” Wow – the “selfishlessness” of love, where you let someone go in order to save them instead of yourself so that love can endure. Every girl deserves this kind of romance, if not in the real world, then in the movies which subsequently transcends into the imagination.Last of the Mohicans

I could go on and on and on with the romantic aspects such as Duncan‘s unrequited love for Cora which is so true that he gives himself to be burnt at the stake for her sake. He could have saved himself. As brutal as it is, it is such a romantic notion. As is the scene where Alice, who sometimes annoys me a bit with her “clinginess”, throws herself off the cliff to be with the love of her life. In fact, this is to me one of the most heart-wrenching scenes of any story which I always struggle to watch and repeatedly wish that somehow things have magically changed since the last time I watched. But then, it just wouldn’t be the same. Something special would just be gone.

Lastly, what girl doesn’t love a good “rescue” scene and The Last of the Mohicans delivers just that. I refer to the battle scene where Uncas and Hawkeye spot their ladies about to go under Magua’s knife and race to save them. Ah…nothing else to say here…

I know a film speaks to me when I get this squeezing feeling in my stomach (I can’t really describe it, but it is there when a couple really connect romantically and convincingly for me). And I get this every single time I watch The Last of the Mohicans. This is why I’d like to gift it to my daughter – something so special for my most special. And, I don’t care what anyone says around lack of realism, political correctness or archaic notions – it is my gift after all. And we need to dream a little.


The Romantic in me…

For starters, don’t read this if you don’t want me spoiling things for you. So:

I’m a romantic. Let me rephrase. I’m a hopeless romantic. The one who thrives on that tumbling, twisting feeling in my stomach when two characters finally fall in love. But not just any two characters. No, they have to be strong and independent with lots and lots of oomph! Their journey to each other mustn’t be obvious and definitely not soppy but also not the overused “we hate each other but actually love each other” type. In fact, the romantic kick I need is the kind that is not typically “romantic drama” or “romantic comedy” formula driven material. Don’t get me wrong, in order for my escapism to be satisfactory, I do want a happy ending (otherwise, what’s the point?) but, not the cheesy guy-and-girl-get-together-as-you-predicted-from-the-first-few-minutes-and-live-happily-ever-after, but a rich, rewarding, more realistic ending where there is genuine hope that they will stay together. Here are the ones that are my absolute best:

One of the most romantic movie moments for me is in Centurion, where Quintus Dias (Michael Fassbender) and his two roman colleagues come across the dwelling of Arianne (Imogen Poots). Quintus Dias has been a tough, yet intelligent, ruthless Roman until this point. She has been living on her own (I admire her), using the guise of being a witch to keep men from the nearby garrison away. Without a moment of doubt, she holds her own but for some reason (fate?) she lets Dias and his men into her home, risking her life. These two form such a natural bond that Dias sees her home as the place he ultimately belongs. He doesn’t give up his quest for her, she doesn’t beg him to stay, yet, their actions are so much more romantic, more real because of this. Nothing like a good cat-and-mouse action movie with such tenderness thrown in to give a bit of a pace reduction for just a few minutes yet having such an impact.

Then, moving on to one of my favourite films in general, but, also one of the most romantic. The Last of the Mohicans. Wow, now there is romance. In the wild frontier of America, you get this absolute heart-wrenching love.  What is more romantic that Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis) and Uncas (Eric Schweig) running through the carnage of an attack to save the women they have come to love. Or the waterfall scene where Hawkeye says to Cora (Madeleine Stowe) “No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you” and Uncas just holding Alice (Jodhi May) not requiring any words. In fact, the Uncas/Alice love story is so understated that it leaves me wishing it had been more prominent. But then, had that been the case, I doubt it would have been as heart-felt, as real, and as rewarding, even though, she does get a bit needy and helpless at times. But, thinking about it, how much more could have been said about their love than Alice throwing herself off the cliff to be with Uncas?

Yellow Sky, now that’s an amazing film. This 1948 black and white film is absolutely fantastic with James ‘Stretch’ Dawson (Gregory Peck) taking his bank robbing gang across the desert to hide out in a ghost town. Here he comes across Constance Mae (Anne Baxter), disguised as Mike, and her grandfather. As the story unfolds, Stretch discovers that Mike is Mae but, we also see the contradiction of Mike/Mae where she is tough and holds her own, yet, at other times wants to be a lady. This is so much more rewarding that the usual man saves damsel in distress scenario. He simply lets her be who she really is and vice versa.

Ah – Robin Hood, the Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett version. I just love the amazing love story that develops between Robin Longstride and Marion Loxley. There is utmost respect for each other from the moment they meet. Both are strong and independent without ever changing who they are for each other. The most romantic part is, not when they finally dance together or when they bid each other farewell stating their love, but, when Marion arrives on the beach of the Cliffs of Dover to help fight. They stand by each other, working together yet always staying true to themselves.

And man, oh, man. I spent the entire first season of the brilliant Peaky Blinders wanting, needing, silently begging Thomas (Cillian Murphy) and Grace (Annabelle Wallis) to get together. I was tortured to the last episode for that to finally happen and therefore it had so much more impact. Grace makes all the right (or wrong, depending on your stance) decisions fully knowing the potential consequences yet staying true to herself while rationally knowing she shouldn’t be falling in love with a tough, uncompromising gangster.

Then, the Swiss Family Robinson (1960) deserves a mention. Yes, Roberta (Janet Munro) comes across as the stereotype helpless damsel to be rescued, but, cut me some slack here – watching Fritz (James MacArthur) and her fall in love is just beautiful. She may not be the strong independent woman at first, but, she rises to the challenge and puts her whole heart into the situation that has come her way. This story leaves me wanting more but, realistically, all that needs saying is said and anything more or less would not have worked. I guess what it comes down to is that by leaving the viewer craving that feel-good effect, the goal has been achieved.

Then there are those films that leave you wishing, wanting the hinted or implied romance being developed more. The likes of The Quick and the Dead (Sharon Stone’s Ellen and Russell Crowe’s Cort), Broken Arrow (Christian Slater’s Hale and Samantha Mathis’ Terry), and oh my gosh…Ironclad where the brilliant James Purefoy’s Thomas Marshal and Kate Mara’s Lady Isabel develop an understated relationship. Ultimately, for me, the romance is in the strong women and the men who love them. Or, maybe, it’s the fact that these films have romances second to the main story and therefore have so much more impact. But, that “addictively” strange lurching feeling, that’s when I know a scene has worked with me, regardless of the actors (being good or bad) but the fact that they have successfully portrayed an emotion that has reached the audience.