Tag Archives: romance

Beauty in the Movies: Romeo and Juliet

Since St. Valentines Day is almost upon us I thought it would be appropriate to feature a romantic movie—and why not go with what is considered maybe the greatest love story of all time—Romeo and Juliet.

I’ll assume everyone knows the story, a family feud, the star-crossed lovers, their unfortunate end, it’s been told many times in many forms, but the power of both the love and tragedy continues to resonate hundreds of years after the play was written. The story of the tragic young lovers existed before Shakespeare wrote it down, but he added supporting characters, amped up the drama and spun the tale using his brilliant language leaving us with a story that will likely live on forever.

While I’m also a fan of 1996 Baz Luhrmann version, nothing compares to Zeffirelli’s beautiful 1968 telling of Shakespeare’s classic. Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting are both passionate and gorgeous, not to mention incredibly convincing.

The thing that sets this film apart from the many other film versions of Romeo and Juliet is that the leads were actually played by actors close to the ages of the doomed characters (Hussey was just 15 and Whiting 17). Teenagers are overly dramatic and emotional especially when they’re in love, and this version captures that teenage sense of self-centered, lustful infatuation. The actors in the 1936 version were absurdly aged 35 and 43 when they filled the roles of the love-sick teenagers. The 1954 version did a bit better with the actor who played Romeo being 26 and Juliet age 20, but Zeffirelli’s choice to cast actors who were nearly the same age as they were written makes their instant and obsessive love vastly more devastating and believable.

This film was the Twilight of its day—the young actors were propelled to stardom and made Shakespeare cool again. In fact the media attention was so intense that Olivia Hussey became burdened with agoraphobia from the sudden fame. Though Hussey and Whiting received a great deal of praise, all the performances are incredible. Milo O’Shea (Friar Laurence), Pat Heywood (The Nurse), Michael York (Tybalt), and John McEnery (Mercutio) round out the cast and do exceptional jobs in their roles.

This film won the Oscar for best costume design and best cinematography, and it’s easy to see why. I’ve been obsessed with the costumes from this movie since I was a kid, they’re so intricate and interesting sometimes they steal the scenes from the actors.

If you haven’t seen this film or you haven’t watched it since high school when your teacher fast-forwarded through the brief nudity, you should definitely watch it again. Everything about it is beautiful, Zeffirelli took a story that had been told thousands of times and rather than modernize it he chose to bring it back to its original setting and make it feel real.

So this Valentines Day if you feel like crying your eyes out (alone or with a partner), looking at beautiful scenery, and re-living one of the greatest love stories of all time, put this film at the top of your list.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

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Beauty in the Movies: Amélie

One week from today I will be on my way to Paris for a wedding in Montmartre, so in honor of my upcoming trip (and my desire to immerse myself in French things to prepare) this week for Beauty in the Movies I’m taking you all on a trip to Paris with me, in the adorably quirky French film, Amélie.

When Amélie (Audrey Tautou) was a child, her mother’s sudden death left her to be raised by her emotionally distant father (Rufus). As a result of her solitude she withdrew into a world of imagination. In her early twenties Amélie leaves home to work as a waitress at The Two Windmills Café in Montmartre. When she accidentally finds a tin treasure box hidden by a child in her apartment in the 1950s, she resolves to return the box of memories to its owner. Her quest, and subsequent success, lead her to find small ways to improve the lives of those around her (and maybe punish those who deserve it) in amusing and endearing ways.

Amélie is surrounded by eclectic and overblown characters, but while she knows them all well, she has trouble relating to them. In the café where she works there is Madame Suzanne (Claire Maurier) a former circus performer, Georgette (Isabelle Nanty) a neurotic hypochondriac, failed author Hipolito (Artus de Penguern), amateur healer Gina (Clotilde Mollet) and her jealous, obsessive ex-boyfriend, Joseph (Dominique Pinon). Even the characters who are only on screen for a short time give great performances and contribute a great deal of humor to the film.

There is no shortage of unusual characters in Amélie’s apartment building either, there is a patronizing grocer and his imaginative, one-armed, assistant Lucien (Jamel Debbouze), a miserable lovelorn landlady Mary Wallace (Yolande Moreau), and Raymond Dufayel (Serge Merlin), whose bones are as fragile as glass preventing him from ever leaving his home. Amélie and Monsieur Dufayel form a bond, but she resents that he sees through her and he accuses her of using good deeds as a way to avoid making actual connections with others. As someone who physically can’t get out and enjoy the world, Monsieur Dufayel wants to make sure Amélie doesn’t let life pass her by.

Despite being a “feel-good” movie, Amélie is essentially about loneliness. Not the way we often see it in romantic comedies, it’s not related to the protagonist wanting romance, it’s about her wanting to connect with someone—anyone, and not knowing how. Amélie may have a social anxiety disorder, but whatever it is that causes her to live in her own world, it’s something most of us have felt at times and it can be difficult to break out of. She deals with her struggle by bringing happiness to others in order to take part in their lives in some way, even if they never know she is responsible. In her role as guardian angel, she stumbles upon Nino Quincampoix (Mathieu Kassovitz), another dreamer whose unusual interests tend to alienate him from others. Unfortunately, when two people are lost in their own fantasies, it’s hard to get them together. I guess you’ll have to watch the film to see if they ever figure it out.

Probably the most well know of Amélie’s antics is the jet-setting gnome who sets off on a journey around the world sending snapshots back to his utterly confused owner, Amélie’s reclusive father. Until I started researching this post, I had no idea that the “traveling gnome” prank actually started in Australia in the 1980s, I always thought it started with Amélie, I guess you learn something new everyday!

The look and the feel of this film is simply gorgeous, the saturated colors, the richness of the scenery, the attention to detail, everything is handled with an immense amount of care. The score, by composer Yann Tiersen is incredible, it fits the mood of the film perfectly and also makes for great background (or foreground) music, I highly recommend it. This film fits together so nicely, there isn’t a poor actor,  a clumsy section of dialogue, or a stitch of pretension, it’s a modern-day fable, or dare I say it a fairy-tale. It may be light-hearted and often very funny, but it also makes you want to appreciate life in every detail.

Amélie exists in its own world, highly stylized, maybe a bit idealized, but grounded enough that you feel deeply for the characters and the world they inhabit. It would be easy for a movie with such offbeat characters to go over the top, but the core of the story is about people interacting in a very human, even simple, way. At times the gestures Amélie makes to cheer others are very in-depth, but sometimes they’re incredibly small, and often that’s all it takes to put a spring in someone’s step. After watching Amélie you may not be moved to launch a strategy to improve your neighbors lives, but you might just stop and take a closer look at everything around you, all the strangeness of the world, and be surprised at the beauty you find there.

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Beauty in the Movies: She-Devil

I can’t believe this movie isn’t on DVD, it’s really a shame because it’s totally underrated and deserves to be viewed by a new generation. Thank goodness it is now streaming on Netflix for your enjoyment, so don’t miss out!

Loosely based on the novel by Fay Weldon, She-Devil gives us the story of Ruth Patchett (Roseanne) a clueless, frumpy, housewife in 1980s suburbia. She is verbally abused and neglected by her husband Bob (Ed Begley Jr.), and finally snaps when she can no longer ignore his blatant affair with romance novelist Mary Fisher (Meryl Streep). In a rage, Ruth vows to destroy all of her husband’s “assets” as he calls them. She burns down their house, drops the kids off with Bob at his mistress’s pink mansion, and heads off to start a new life driven by revenge.

As Ruth’s plans succeed, Mary’s life begins to crumble. Mary wanted Bob, and now she has him—and his children, and his infidelity, and thanks to Ruth, Mary’s loud-mouthed, elderly mother (who Mary had been keeping sedated at Golden Twilight Nursing home for years) shows up on her door step as well.

As Mary’s life falls apart, Ruth’s life blossoms, she renames herself Vesta Rose and opens a women’s employment agency with her friend Hooper (Linda Hunt). The Vesta Rose agency helps “women who the world threw away” by turning them into successful, strong, working women. At the same time, these women provide Ruth with an army that aids her in achieving vengeance over those who’ve wronged her, so she is doing good while doing bad.

She-Devil is, more than anything else, a film about fantasy. Mary writes bodice ripping romance novels and delivers her own fantasy to a legion of women who need the escape. Ruth herself once bought into Mary’s novels, but when her reality comes into sharp focus she brings Mary’s world crashing down to Earth along with her, bursting her pink bubble of fantasy by delivering Mary the responsibilities and stresses most of her readers are all too familiar with.

I honestly don’t think this film would work without Meryl Streep, you have to respect a woman who after winning a couple of Oscars, decides to do a movie like this one. I’m sure there are tons of critics who think it’s ridiculous, but there is no way you can watch this movie and not think Meryl is having a ball playing the ridiculous, vain, selfish, Mary Fisher. She gives a flamboyantly funny performance and when you’re as good an actress as she is, you can choose the roles you want to play without worrying that you won’t be taken seriously—and besides, being funny is a whole heck of a lot harder than being serious any day.


In essence, She-Devil is the ultimate revenge fantasy of every wronged woman. Ruth not only gives back what she got and them some, but she embraces her freedom and starts a new life by helping other women who’ve been abused and beaten down. Ruth’s wrath doesn’t burn her up, it renews her, she rises up from the ashes of her old life, and finds a new purpose. She doesn’t find a prince charming, and she does use other people to serve herself, but it’s almost refreshing to see that in a film, especially since nowadays every comedy seems so moralistic. All the characters do despicable things, they’re cliches—but sometimes we all are, so why not have a laugh about it?

She-Devil

She-Devil by justinez featuring a bodice dress

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A Wedding Miscellany

I’m sorry to do another wedding post, but I have them on the brain. I am breathing, eating, and sleeping weddings recently. Whether it’s putting together my wedding play-list, ordering candy for our wedding candy bar, or painting bridal card boxes for others with upcoming nuptials, it’s a huge part of my life right now.

I’ve written before about the stress of planning a wedding, but there are so many things to keep track of that you can’t keep your mind from running all over the place, so this post might be a bit scattered, and I apologize for that.

All of the illustrations featured below are from an adorable little book my mom bought for me when I got engaged—it’s called The Little Big Book for Brides, and it has all sorts of cute advice, customs, and strange facts you never knew about weddings, here are some examples:

“Feed a cat out of your wedding shoe for good luck”—hmm, kind a gross, but I could try it!

“If in October you do marry , love will come but riches tarry”—this doesn’t surprise me at all, sounds about right actually. Darn.

My favorite part of this book is a whole long excerpt from an article entitled “The Instruction and Advice for the Young Bride”, it was published in an 1894 newsletter and it will blow your mind! For example:

“One cardinal rule of marriage should never be forgotten: GIVE LITTLE, GIVE SELDOM, AND ABOVE ALL, GIVE GRUDGINGLY. Otherwise, what could have been a proper marriage could become an orgy of sexual lust.”

Cracks. me. up. Here’s some more sage advice:

“Clever wives are ever on the alert for new and better methods of denying and discouraging the amorous overtures of the husband. A good wife should expect to have reduced sexual contacts to once a week by the end of the first year of marriage and to once a month by the end of the fifth year of marriage.”

I hope you’re listening ladies!

Moving on, today I am officially starting my pre-wedding diet. I know, I wrote a whole post about how I wasn’t going to let the pressure get to me and I wasn’t going to starve myself, but here’s the thing; I went for my final dress fitting and things changed. The good news is that the dress fits perfectly—too perfectly. It fits so perfectly that breathing is a bit of a problem. If I had money to spare I’d probably just let it out a little, but money is an issue, and the cost of alterations on bridal gowns are astronomical. So in the interest of saving a few hundred dollars, I have to cut back on my beloved cheese, ice cream, fried anything, and all the rest of my favorite foods. It’s just for a month, so I can handle it, and I just need to keep thinking about all the food I won’t be able to eat on my wedding day and my inability to dance if there is no room to move in my dress as motivation. So for the next month I’m counting points, snacking on carrot sticks and praying that come October 29th, I can breathe, move, dance,—and eat comfortably.

To those of you who are getting married soon, or planning on getting married soon, or have some kind of big party or event to plan in general, here is some advice—start planning now. Months ago, even a year ago, I kept poo-pooing things “oh, we have time” I’d say, and now I wish I could go back in time and knock myself upside the head. Not only do I wish I had taken care of some things earlier, but also, spending money in small bursts over a year is far easier than doling out large amounts all at once. So, if you see something you like—whether it be a wedding dress or favors, buy it, or at least bookmark it now, you’ll thank yourself later.

So, right now I have to order my favors, and research hairstyles and follow-up with the florist, the hotel, the venue, and so much more, and every phone call will hopefully soothe a bit of the madness, but really all I can hope is that I fit into that dress and actually get to eat some of my wedding cake, and of course, cheese.

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