What’s the fun in normal? So here’s us trying to jog your memory through Hollywood’s best on unconventional couples that have achieved cult status over the years.
Hollywood has always been pushing the boundaries when it comes to romance. Even if a large section of the content produced follows a formulaic mould of boy-meets-girl, swiftly followed by the couple circumventing any and all hindrances in their way to reach a happily-ever-after. But what really catches the eye and forces viewers to take notice is when cinema portrays the strange and unconventional into such narratives and develops everlasting classics. These twisted tales of togetherness evoke a sense of hope in hearts that what’s imperfect for most, may well be the right fit for two oddballs.
Lars and the Real Girl, Craig Gillespie’s 2007 directorial posed Ryan Gosling as the shiest, most reticent man who finally gets involved with a life-size doll Bianca (Emily Mortimer). A patient of schizoid personality disorder, Lars is borderline asexual and is hypersensitive to touch. The film’s screenwriter Nancy Oliver, in a special DVD feature release of the film, confessed that Lars’ story arc was actually inspired by the website RealDoll.com (another feature that gets ample spotlight in the film). Though Lars’ dependency on Bianca witnesses a sharp drop, the film speaks volumes on community support and building safe spaces around us. The title of the film, which chooses to focus on the growing feelings of togetherness, emphatically places Bianca as the “real girl”, hinting at the perfection that the humanoid brought into Lars’ life.
Speaking of humanoids, there is Tim Burton’s 1990 classic Edward Scissorhands. Johnny Depp took on the role of Edward, a synthetic man with scissors as hands. His intimidating exterior is a complete contrast to his sensitive soul. Burton and Depp forged a lifetime connection with the actor becoming a permanent fixture in most of Burton’s films. Winona Ryder’s Kim is everything that Ed ever wanted in a partner. Their love is both sensitive and empathetic. Burton subverted the Frankenstein trope and utilized it to create a story from the “monster’s” perspective. Though evocative, Burton’s was a macabre fantasy of acceptance and genuine love.
Spike Jonze’s 2013 feature Her told a similar tale of love that could defy the levels of ‘normal.’ Joaquin Phoenix plays the loner Theodore Twombley gets involved with an uber advanced artificial intelligence presence Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). Black Mirror-esque in its approach, Her told the story of what love looks like in modern times, with its unhealthy dependence on technology. Theodore’s conversations with Samantha are essentially customised to suit his needs and ideologies, making it an apt example of someone who is getting involved with the self. But Jonze’s deft narrative and screenplay ensured that their love developed in ways that were both endearing and everlasting (or at least provided the veneer of it). As Oscars' favourite of the year, Her added a worthy title to the lead duo’s filmographies.
An old feature that is a must-watch when it comes to unconventional love stories is The Fly (1986). The story follows the budding romance between Veronica (Geena Davis) and a scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum). Their relationship takes a turn after Seth’s mutation into a fly-man hybrid. Veronica holds on to Seth and makes sure she supports him through his mental and physical deterioration. However, when in his final stages of transformation, he begins exhibiting arrogance, and even notorious violence, she decides to disassociate from him completely. She even aborts Seth’s child after fearing that the offspring may portray hybrid symptoms as well.
Disney’s Beauty and The Beast is a classic example of love between a human and the otherworldly. Touted as a love story for decades, the classic fairytale underscored extremely problematic themes including streaks of Stockholm syndrome portrayed by Bella (Emma Watson) who gets captured by the Beast (Dan Stevens) after she insists her father be released. Watson’s modern-day take on the tale did little to salvage the issues that the original 1740 novel titled La Belle et la Bête, by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. Basic issues of consent aside, the film tried to bolster the romantic quotient with waltz-y numbers and numerous close-up shots of looking-into-each-others-eyes, but critics still bombarded the film’s basic premise of promoting a narrative that completely sidelines consent and other necessary concepts.
Wall-E, Andrew Stanton’s 2008 sci-fi love story, got Pixar it’s due. The oddball union of two robots Wall-E (Ben Burtt) and Eve (Elissa Knight) took the world by storm. That inanimate objects could have such intense emotions and that too so beautifully depicted, was not something that audiences were used to. Enmeshed within the theme of environmentalism, Wall-E brought out the perfect love story. 1987’s Mannequin was also a feature that spoke on love among synthetic people. Jonathan Switcher’s (Andrew McCarthey) experiments with a mannequin and realizes he has finally cracked the code to a perfect woman. Emmy (the mannequin played by Kim Cattrall) is possessed by the spirit of an ancient Egyptian woman who has a yearning for true love. Jonathan’s presence fulfils her and she finds in him, her perfect partner.
Love has never worked within set compartments. It has always had its own mode of expression and has found a suitable conduit whenever possible. The above films have more than proven that love transcends borders, boundaries and sometimes, even common sense.