In honor of Valentine's Day, our staff will be sharing some of their favorite romantic scenes all day long.
Through the modern history of the romantic film (the good part, not the drought we're currently crawling through), it is very easy to go with the big moments. Lloyd Dobler and his boombox. "You complete me." Or something else not from a Cameron Crowe film. We think of the race to the airport or the first kiss so often we tend to neglect the ones not part of the cliche factory. Like the duet foreplay of Hansard and Iglova singing "Falling Slowly" in Once. Claudia's smile at the end of Magnolia. Even the look of ecstasy on Elizabeth Banks' face when she realizes she is making love and not just filming sex in Zack & Miri Make A Porno. A top 100 list of such scenes is not out of the realm of possibility, but the one that I always come back to is a moment between Albert Brooks and Holly Hunter in James L. Brooks' beautiful and prescient tale of the news business.
Aaron Altman (Brooks) and Jane Craig (Hunter) are the best of friends and partners at the Washington television station portrayed in the film. They can practically finish each other's sentences. ("I'll meet you at the place near the thing where we went that time.") They are the last voices they hear on the phone before they go to bed - two full years before Harry & Sally. She covers for him amongst colleagues when he's dealt a little blow to his ego by pretending to laugh hysterically. But things start getting worse for Aaron. He is on the bubble for a big impending layoff. He gets left off the team for a big breaking news story while Jane is given her big shot at executive producing the segment. The class act that he is, Aaron still manages to phone in vital information to Jane in the middle of it. With her too busy to talk further, he goes right on drinking screwdrivers and listening to Gladys Knight and the Pips.
After her great success, Jane still chooses to go over to Aaron's instead of hanging with the crew. It is here with Aaron still a bit drunk that he has a proclamation for the ages. His jealousy over the new guy at the office, Tom Grunik (William Hurt), subtly bubbling out, Aaron tells Jane of his desire to get a shot at being the weekend anchorman.
Aaron: "Now I don't want to tell you where this thought has led me. (pauses) Why not? In the middle of all of this, I started to think about the one thing that makes me feel really good and makes immediate sense... and it's you."
Jane (turning to him and smiling): "Oh, Bubba."
Aaron: "I'm going to stop right now. Except I would give anything if you were two people, so that I could call up the one who's my friend and tell her about the one that I like so much!"
You listen to the way Brooks delivers those final two words and you can almost visualize his aching heart being thrust right into Jane's lap. With another awkward pause and no response, he does what most of us would do and ends with a bit of humor. But the seed has been planted with the most perfect of lines. So perfect that our own hearts are in pain later on in the film.
Having embarrassed himself in his shot at anchor and realizing that Jane may be in love with Tom, Aaron lashes out at her. It is the culmination of every nice, sweet, funny guy's fear; the ones who watch the woman they cherish fall for the wrong guy. He calls Tom the devil in a "semi-serious" rant about the "flash over substance" that he represents. When the wounded Jane reciprocates by calling Aaron the devil, he tells her she knows that isn't true.
"Because I think we have the kind of friendship where if I were the devil, you'd be the only one I would tell."
How is THAT for romantic? And Aaron would probably tell both Janes if they existed. We have seen Ducky and Watts and every teen crush known to man from the nerds to the second prettiest boy in the school. There is something so wonderfully ageless about Aaron and Jane though that strikes to the core of our most unrequited romances. The pain of Aaron's damaged pride when he understands he has become a consolation prize for Jane; the padded shoulder to cry on that she set him up with earlier in the evening. How sad that the last nice thing we will here him say to her in the film is this:
"And if things had gone well for me tonight then I probably wouldn't be saying any of this. I grant you everything. But give me this: he personifies everything that you've been fighting against. And I'm in love with you. How do you like that? I buried the lead."
Not at all, Aaron. We all know and will always remember how you felt.