It’s a classic rom-com trope. A couple gets together for a casual hookup with little sign of chemistry, sometimes outright friction, and hostility. They find they fail to agree on anything, and their personalities clash. Eventually, after a seemingly never-ending rollercoaster of ups and downs, they find their feelings for each other altering. They’re both struck by Cupid’s arrow! These stories may have emanated from some screenwriter’s imagination, but there’s a reason for plots consistently flowing along these lines. Romantic movies are avidly watched because they reflect reality – audiences can’t get enough stories about casual affairs gaining momentum, and blossoming into a stronger bond. Films are also reflecting the reality of so many singles these days, whose default method of looking for hook up opportunities is to rely on online apps or websites. On these virtual platforms, they’ll be guaranteed access to a treasure trove of talent, with kindred spirits queuing up to get acquainted via flirty texts. Many of these casual online introductions develop into love.
To assess just how accurately the big screen can apply real-life dilemmas to storylines, you only have to check out five titles that have so successfully wowed worldwide audiences.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
Here, a musician, Peter (Jason Segel), the music composer for a TV show, finds his aspirations eclipsed by the star of the show, the titular Sarah (Kristen Bell). They’ve been going out for five years – does this mean he has started taking her for granted? In a scene that is both hilarious and dripping with pathos, Peter is naked in his apartment when Sarah makes the announcement the time has come for their relationship to be consigned to history. Naturally, whether or not the writing was on the wall, Peter is devastated. He attempts to fill the void by seeking solace in a series of meaningless one-night hookups. All along, his stepbrother and best friend, Brian (Bill Hader) gives him sage advice, usually of the kind he should be taking on board if he wants to get on with his life. Peter eventually tries to get over the heartbreak by holidaying in Hawaii. But how can he forget Sarah Marshall when she shows up in the same hotel with her new squeeze, English rock musician, Aldous (Russell Brand), the brash, charismatic lead singer of the band, Infant Sorrow? Peter later plans a rock opera based on the legend of Dracula, featuring puppets. His casual relationships are well and truly behind him when he discovers his true feelings for the hotel desk clerk, Rachel (Mila Kunis).
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)
Another movie that dips into a situation that might be recognized by much of the audience, deals with a self-destructive streak. Just as there are some films covering the chance encounters that set lives spiraling on different tangents, this plot concerns someone deciding to ‘experiment’ with deliberately messing things up – for the sake of a newspaper column! Andie (Kate Hudson) is into pushing boundaries. Ben (Matthew McConaughey) is an Alpha Male who feels no female could resist his charms. Will there be a romantic collision? What do you think?!
Friends with Benefits (2011)
In a New York recruitment agency, Jamie (Mila Kunis) becomes friends with Dylan (Justin Timberlake), an art director from California. Both suffering from the fallout of failed romances, they concentrate on having fun together. But one thing leads to another, and fun leads to the bedroom. Can their platonic connection survive?!
Pretty Woman (1990)
Cinderella is the classic tale of a pauper falling for a prince, and in this charming modern remake, the mismatched pair are Vivian (Julia Roberts), a hooker, and the ruthless businessman, Edward (Richard Gere), who buys her for a weekend of fun. Despite coming from vastly different worlds, the one thing neither can deny is the chemistry between them. Casual encounters and meaningful looks gradually create a bridge leading to a passionate connection.
A Lot Like Love (2005)
In another storyline with its roots in casual encounters, Oliver (Ashton Kutcher) and Emily (Amanda Peet) bump into each other on a plane. Although they feel an irresistible connection, before parting company they agree that having been thrown together in such random circumstances, there’s no real future for them. The years wear on, with the duo going on to lead separate lives. But in classic rom-com style, their paths seem destined to bring them together at certain junctures. Their passion ebbs and flows, sometimes one of them becomes convinced there could be more to the chemistry between them, only for the other one to remain rooted in the friend zone. On other occasions, both sense the deep regret they’ll be facing for the rest of their lives should they rule out the possibility that they are, in fact, soulmates. Just like so many true-life experiences!