5. “Shame” (2011) — NC-17
Presumably this Valentine’s Day (or if we’re being honest, probably any other date you may go on), you may be trying to set “the mood” with your love interest. “Shame” presents itself to be a film for the job. Michael Fassbender plays Brandon, a suave bachelor living in the heart of Manhattan. This attractive single makes his way through life meeting countless beautiful women that he easily picks up to take home. Not a bad idea for a date right? After all, you’re two attractive singles looking for love, watching another attractive single doing just the same thing.
Yet “Shame” proceeds to tell the tale of Brandon’s lack of fulfillment from the attention of these women, and his struggle with sexual addiction. Powerful as this piece may be, Fassbender’s dark, accurate portrayal of emotional dissatisfaction won’t exactly be setting the mood for your date night.
4. “This Is 40” (2012) — R
Perhaps you’re looking for a fun, romantic comedy to share with your loved one this Valentine’s Day. You’re looking for something to watch with your longer-term girlfriend or boyfriend, and come across Judd Apatow’s “This is 40.” Paul Rudd plays Pete, a disgruntled father working at a failing record label and is married to Leslie Mann who plays Debbie, the owner of a boutique in the city. The duo lives with their two children in Los Angeles, and are working to deal with the challenges of raising children while coming to the realization that they are now officially middle-aged.
One would expect to see a quirky comedy depicting the trials and tribulations of Pete and Dobbie’s life. In reality, the film depicts the couple’s self pity over the tribulations of living in upper-scale suburbia in beautiful California. “This is 40” leaves viewers dreading their middle-age years and questioning, “If they can’t be happy, who can be?”
3. “Blue Valentine” (2010) — NC-17
If you’ve learned one thing as a man, you have learned that women love Ryan Gosling. His films make women melt, and the affections held for young Gosling will, hopefully, be transferred into affections toward you. Any time that Ryan Gosling in on screen, you know that you have made the right choice.
Except for when watching “Blue Valentine.” Gosling plays Dean, a hunky house painter married to Michelle Williams who plays Cindy, a nurse and mother to their daughter, Frankie. The family lives in a quaint town in Pennsylvania, where Gosling and Williams are fighting to save a crumbling marriage. The duo decides to take a night to themselves and mend their fading affections. Viewers will struggle through this powerful film, begging to see the couple together and happy at its conclusion, but are left dissatisfied.
2. “Sightseers” (2012) — R
At first glade, Ben Wheatley’s “Sightseers” promises to be a quiet, understated film, portraying the love affair of a young British couple on holiday exploring the beautiful countryside on a dream get away. The couple, Chris and Tina, is played by actor and writers Steve Oram and Alice Lowe. Initially, “Sightseers” does fulfill this expectation, until boyfriend Chris reveals a nasty little habit that he has.
Chris charges every man with the responsibility of acting as a true English gentleman, and takes this obligation very seriously. When these obligations are not being upheld to Chris’ satisfaction, he simply rids the world of these unruly men. Yes. This romantic comedy takes a turn for the brutal and bizarre as Chris ruthlessly bludgeons a man to death after he rudely refuses to toss his trash into a proper receptacle. The spree continues as Chris comes into several more unfit men as the duo makes their way through the countryside. “Sightseers” is quirky, thought-provoking and lovingly obscure, but simply not a first date movie.
1. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004) — R
Any time that you can see Jim Carrey play a character in an understated, refined manner, it is a beautiful thing. Any time that you can be challenged by a film and its unconventional plot in ways that you have never been challenged before, it is a beautiful thing. Watching a film telling the story of a young couple’s struggle though heart break and emotional dissatisfaction on Valentine’s Day, especially … that is not a beautiful thing. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” is poignant, and beautifully shot and paired with an immaculately complied playlist. But do not let yourself be fooled … This is not a first date movie.
Carrey plays Joel Barish, estranged lover of Kate Winslet’s character, simply referred to as “Clementine.” The duo meets in what feels like a showing of destiny at work, as Barish takes a spontaneous train ride to the beach of Montauk, where he meets Clementine. Strange, unfamiliar, and above all beautiful, Clementine becomes the object of Barish’s affections. As an audience, we are provided with bits and pieces of the couple’s love affair until one fact become clear. Clementine is no longer in love, and she has undergone an experimental procedure in which every last memory of Joel will be erased from her mind. Upon discovering this disheartening fact, Barish spends his time struggling with his heartbreak and memories of love lost. Beautiful as this piece may be, a tale of unresolved heartbreak may not be just the right way to start off that perfect date.