Valentine’s Day? Ugh, right everybody?! But also, Aww, right everybody else? Man, I wish they made a movie that encapsulated a nation’s feelings towards such a holiday? Oh wait, you mean, they sort of did?!
I was doing some research before (and after) seeing the new hit movie, Valentine’s Day. Critics really hated it! 16% on Rotten Tomatoes! 34/100 on Metacritic! I cannot say that lots of these critical interpretations were unjustified or inaccurate. Some parts of this moviefilm are not very good, I will admit!
There may be some unrealistic expectations for Valentine’s Day, given that its premise is basically an American Love Actually. People love Love Actually. Don’t ruin Love Actually like you ruined Coupling, America! The USA has already ruined made one horrendous super-many-actors love movie already (He’s Just Not That Into You) so they can’t make two! Valentine’s Day is neither Love Actually nor He’s Just Not That Into You. It is in the middle? Let’s discuss.
The tagline for the movie calls it “a day in the life of love.” That’s sort of problem number one. There’s a bunch of characters and the movie attempts (or hopefully, at least had in mind) to create a fulfilling arc for each character. Since the movie runs the course of a single day, implausibilities pop up left and right. Most of these unbelievable things are easy enough to ignore. If you have low expectations going into Valentine’s Day, it’s possible to have a good time!
I think the crowd you see the film with also helps the experience. If you are in a crowd of couples, you can ask yourself both “Why am I so lonely?” and “Why do they think this is a date movie?” Sure, it’s about Valentine’s Day, but if planning a romantic, meaningful celebration of love involves you and your special one heading to the cineplex, sharing some pretzel bites, and maybe finger-banging in the back row while Topher Grace is on-screen, you two have other problems.
I recommend seeing this movie at, say, 6PM on a Saturday with a theater full of families and teens from ages 13-16. Not all of this movie is for that demographic but A LOT of this movie is for that demographic. I mean, the center of the movie poster has Taylors Lautner and Swift. Look how cramped Julia Roberts looks compared to them! It makes sense though. People in the theater went crazy for the Taylors! There were so many gasps when Taylor Swift shows up in the first 20 minutes that all the oxygen in the theater was sucked out and we had to evacuate because, dear God, the horror of not being able to breath. There were swoons when Taylor Lautner did athletic things (Athletic things are his trademark when he cannot turn into a wolf).
Before I jump into the movie itself, it is worth noting the other general things that don’t work for this movie. Most of the characters (and even actors, I guess) occupy the same demographic. There even seems to be a bunch of character overlap, in terms of motivations and traits. Also, while Love Actually could have a broader interpretation of love, Valentine’s Day sees fit to constrain itself (mostly) to romantic love. When the relationships are more developed, the characters act more immature. Maybe, Garry Marshall was trying to tell us something about humanity. Also, this movie loves tropes. It REALLY love tropes. It wants to take romantic comedy tropes (like planned-out deflowering, best friends developing love, driven career women who can’t make time for love) out for a seafood dinner, maybe take a drive to the coast, look at the stars, kiss a bit, suggest they go back to their place, but hey no pressure, and make pancakes in the morning if everything goes just right.
To the characters!
Ashton Kutcher plays Reed Bennett. He is a florist and also Dr. Romance. He flexes his Love Muscle by knowing how many roses are sold on February 14th. He must love love! His girlfriend is Morley, played by Jessica Alba. Early, in both the movie and the morning, Reed proposes to her and she accepts! Sort of accepts. Technically, Reed never “asks” her to marry him. He says some cute things, shows her the ring, she smiles, and he puts it on her finger (he liked it). Then, he runs around his neighborhood yelling “She said yes!” This shocks everyone. Literally, everyone who addresses the subject says some variation of “Honey said yes?” but they don’t call her Honey because that is a different movie. Not to get all spoilery, but when Morley visits That’ 70’s Florist Shoppe later, SHE IS NOT WEARING HER RING. We learn Morley is committed to her career because she wears pantsuits and she says she has a 10AM meeting. Reed has a career but he is more committed to LOVE. He is like Cupid, but instead of wearing wings and being a child, he wears pink and is Ashton Kutcher. To get all spoilery, Morley decides she doesn’t want to marry Reed, shocking no one. WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Jennifer Garner’s Julia is a fifth grade teacher who is fucking Patrick Dempsey’s character Dr. Derek Shepherd, I mean, Dr. Harrison Copeland. Apparently, Julia usually has shitty guy taste but just feels good about this one! Julia is Reed’s best friend, but she is also of the opinion that Reed’s girlfriend is not good for Reed. The recently divorced Dr. Copeland tells Julia that he has to go to San Francisco for doctor things so they can’t spend Valentine’s Day together. Fair enough, Dr. Quinn, traveling doctor. Unbeknowst to Dr. Copeland, Julia gets a plane ticket to surprise him in San Francisco.
Dr. Copeland shows up to Reed’s floral shop (Dude, Where’s My Carnation?) to get flowers for Julia . . . AND HIS WIFE FROM WHOM HE IS NOT ACTUALLY DIVORCED. Reed is shocked and he hides this not very well as he takes Dr. Copeland’s order. He wonders what to do with this knowledge, because of the time-honored florists/ philanderers code. Eventually, after being dumped by Jessica Alba, he throws the code to the wind, chases Julia to LAX to convince her not to get on the plane. At first, he can’t get by security, but then Liam Neeson and Mr. Bean create a distraction, oh, I’m sorry, wrong film. In this movie, the dad from 10 Things I Hate About You gives him a special pass to go through security because he called Julia “sunshine.” He gets to Julia but she gets on the plane anyway.
OR DOES SHE? In fact, she gets off the plane, finds out that Dr. Shepherd is a cheater, shows up to his Valentine’s Day dinner with his wife, poses as a waitress, fucks with his shit, steals some lobster tails, and goes to Jessica Biel’s party. Eventually, she makes out with Ashton.
Jessica Biel is a publicist named Kara who HATES February 14th and LOVES work. She loves work so much she lives there! She has a bedspread on her futon and a treadmill and a spray bottle for a shower. Careers! She is also friends with Julia and holds a yearly “Fuck Valentine’s Day Party.” No one is attending this year because her friends have companionship. Kara is alone because of her CAREER, obviously. Jamie Foxx’s Kelvin Briggs is a #2 sports anchor on the depth chart of the ratings’ hearts. He has to do fluff pieces on February 14th. That is a deal breaker, fellows. Eventually, the mutual hate for Valentine’s Day that Mary Camden and the Soloist share is enough to drive them into each other’s arms . . . and hearts.
Jessica Biel is Eric Dane’s publicist. Queen Latifah is Eric Dane’s agent, Paula. Eric Dane of McSteamy, X-Men United, and having his penis on the internet fame is Sean Jackson, quarterback/ homosexual. His coming-out is one of the movie’s three (or four) surprise moments (it’s like the movie is one big mirror scare). Later, Queen Latifah starts having phone sex with someone.
George Lopez’s Alphonso is Reed’s best friend. Before we know that the Brett Favre-esque Sean Jackson is gay, he rear-ends George Lopez’s car. FORESHADOWING. Alphonso is married and shows us there is no romance in that, but you do get to sit on a swing chair. Also, LOPEZ TONIGHT is still on at the same time. Take that, NBC!
Anne Hathaway’s Liz has dreams! She dreams of being a poet. For now, she is a receptionist for Queen Latifah and a part-time phone-sex operator. She also fucks Topher Grace’s Jason, a bumpkin from Muncie, Indiana. That is his characteristic. He responds very poorly to Liz’s revelation of her job. After a fight, he says he will call her but then claims he doesn’t know if he can afford it (due to her exorbitantly priced phone sex rates). I almost yelled out “BURN.” when he did it. When we are first introduced to this couple, there is a weird moment when Liz has to leave Topher’s apartment for work. Topher should be suspicious because they work at the same place, but no, he is from Indiana. He forgets it is Valentine’s Day. What a MAN. Eventually, they get mad at each other, but then reconcile later. They love makeup sex. Compatibility!
This is a good place to break and discuss some things. The Liz/Jason plot probably made this evident, but the movie tries to lots of outlines for romantic comedies into fifteen minute stories. While in a single film, such plots could claim nuance and identity, but there is a lot of overlap here. For example, there are about four break-ups at the same point in the film that take the steam away from each of them. It also doesn’t help that this movie loves, no, LURVES happy endings. Aside from Jessica Alba and McDreamingAloneBecauseIAmAnAdulterer, everyone has a swell day. It’s not that big of a deal,given the moviefilm’s presentation and audience, but it could have been planned better.
Back to characters.
Edison (Bryce Robinson) is the movie’s token cute kid. At times, he is cute and endearing and great. Other times, he is the most fucking annoying human being ever. For every touching conversation he has in the film, he wears a hat like this
but it almost seems that they took the child character from Love Actually and tried to imagine what he would be like as a Californian. For most of the film, I even thought Edison’s mother was dead, just like Sam’s mom in Love Actually. However, that’s one of the movies surprises and it’s really cute so whatevs. For most of the movie, Edison is trying to bag Julia. He almost succeeds (ain’t nobody gonna interrupt his game) but she realizes how inappropriate canoodling with a child would be.
Shirley MacLaine and Hector Elizondo portray Edison’s grandparents, Estelle and Edgar. They are from a different time because they have only conducted sexual intercourse with each other. Well, actually, Estelle had an affair with Edgar’s business partner while he was away on a job. There is not research behind this, but it seems like if a character in a movie cheats on a spouse, the most likely candidate to join in the cheating is the spouse’s business partner. When Edgar finds out, he is upset and storms off, sort of immaturely. They reunite when Estelle realizes they have to love each other? I am still confused by it.
Emma Roberts is Edison’s baby sitter named Grace. Grace has a boyfriend named Alex (Carter Jenkins). Did you hear they are going to have sex? During lunch? Because Grace will say that to anyone. She says it to Kristen Schaal. She says it to Edgar and Estelle. It will be special because Alex is going to Stanford and Grace is going to Yale (I sort of lost interest here, because it’s difficult to develop empathy for two young, attractive, genetically superior characters who are have bright futures).
I was confused by this. Valentine’s Day is in February still, right? Presumably, they would go to school around August? So, by my math, that’s seven solid months of teen love (in a funny moment, Grace mentions that both she and her boyfriend are 18. I wish this wasn’t in the movie, because I wanted to see cops come on-screen and arrest everybody). But during lunch on February 14th? Isn’t prom night just a fake holiday made up by movie executives to give teenage characters an excuse to lose it?
As with any movie and experience of virginity, hijinks ensue. Grace’s mom shows up to the fuck spot and blows it (not literally, ew) for Alex. It should be noted, Alex was naked and covering his genitalia with a guitar, because HAWT. Grace eventually decides that she doesn’t want to fuck. Alex is cool with that, especially because they “can still make out, right?” HIGH FIVE BROTHER.
The Taylors play Willy and Felicia, dear dear friends of Alex and Grace. Willy is athletic. Most of his role involves him making out or doing sports. Felicia is comic relief. She makes it clear they will not be joining Alex and Grace in such ritualistic fucking, which is a relief. However, they will make out at any possible moment.
Also, when Taylor Swift acts, girl goes BIG. Over tops! NO ONE ELSE IS GOING TO BRING THESE WORDS TO LIFE, SO I GOT TO BRING THEM HARD is her motto.
Meanwhile, Bradley Cooper as Holden and Julia Roberts as Captain Kate Hazelton travel a long distance on a plane. They are parts of the movie’s later surprises.
Kathy Bates also shows up.
So yeah, lots of the movie is a mess, especially the dialogue. At one point, Jennifer Garner calls something a “hot mess.” When Alex is dropped off to bust his nut, his driving friend delivers lines that seem to be written for the maximum amount of unintentional awkwardness. Also, half the things Edison says are clearly someone older trying to develop a portrait of a cute, quirky kid.
However, I knew these things were in the movie. The expectation that the movie was going to have clunky, awful dialogue gave the actors a small pass. It also let me suspend my disbelief more than if I was expecting to hear reasonable things.
There are good things such as Taylor Lautner living life, the Eric Dane story, not having anything too heavy, and pretty parts of Los Angeles (because I guess there’s a major film company movement to show people Los Angeles has nice things? Calm down there, 500 Days of Los Angeles Board of Tourism). Maybe people expected more from Garry Marshall because of Pretty Woman,. To these people I say, Georgia Rule.
Just like the holiday, Valentine’s Day evokes a lot of mixed feelings but does have some good and cute things. It’s not Love Actually but what is (other than Love Actually)?