Summertime is the season to walk down the aisle, and as friends have hit up one celebration of nuptial bliss after another, I realize that unlike so many of my kind (read: chicks), weddings aren't really a big deal to me. I believe in the sanctity of marriage, and that everyone has the right to enter the state of wedded bliss -- but thanks to the movies, I'm personally not sold on the bliss part. One of the many reasons my parents let me watch my share of movies that were well out of my age range was that I had a solid education in the concept of make-believe. My parents made sure that I was 100% clear that whatever I saw up there on that big screen wasn't real. The downside to developing this particular skill was that I applied that lesson to just about everything I saw in the movies -- including love and marriage.
We all learn lessons from the films we watch, and most people learn how to be romantic by watching the movies. In the days of Bogey and Bacall men learned to charm 'Dames' by lighting their cigarette, but by the time the 70's hit, people like Woody Allen and Mike Nichols were dealing with the crisis of romance in the age of self-actualization. With the rise of the 'broken home', the perfect marriage was no more real to me than Darth Vader, it was all the stuff of fantasy-land.
As a little girl I may have had silly crushes and daydreams about Indiana Jones sweeping me off for a life of adventure, but by the time puberty hit, it was too late, I was one jaded pre-teen, and 'Happily Ever After' was just something that was made up for the movies, not something I was counting on in life.
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Capitalizing on the tempestuous real-life romance of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, in Mike Nichol's adaptation of Edward Albee's play, George and Martha demonstrate the marriage from hell; much to the horror of a young couple (played by George Segal and Sandy Dennis) who are caught in the domestic crossfire. Besides being one of Taylor and Burton's finest performances, this movie demonstrated that the person you love will usually be the first in line to rip you to shreds.
If ever you needed a reason to never, and I mean, ever move to the suburbs, just pop Sam Mendes' and Alan Ball's rumination on life in a gated community into the DVD player. The white picket fence lifestyle has never seemed so depressing as in the story of the marriage of Lester (Kevin Spacey) and Catherine (Annette Bening). After watching this unhappy couple create the ultimate toxic family, when their daughter runs off with an emotionally troubled drug dealer, it still seems like a better idea than living with dear old mom and dad.
Scenes from a Marriage
Originally, a 6-part series, Ingmar Bergman's study of a dead marriage is everything you would expect from the master of discontent -- it's depressing, bleak, and drives home the point that marriage isn't everything it's all cracked up to be. But unlike most of the other movies on this list, Bergman's has the distinction of being partly responsible for the rise in Swedish divorce rates.
A Married Couple
It may not be the best time you will have at the movies, but Allan King's 1969 'verite' documentary (but as this clip reminds us even documentary films can't tell the whole story) taught me one the scariest lessons about marriage of all: that sometimes there is no big obvious reason why your marriage falls apart. One day you wake up and the petty squabbles about money and who wears the pants in the relationship add up to the sad fact that you just don't even like each other anymore.
Husbands and Wives
It may seem strange, but in my formative years, most my 'grown-up' lessons about the fickle nature of romance were provided by the movies of Woody Allen -- which probably explains why I'm single, but that's another conversation. In Allen's film about marriage and love, a couple that has everything going for them still can't make it work and their friends choose familiarity over the fear of being alone. But in spite of the streak of cynicism a mile wide, the film still clings to a glimmer of old fashioned romance -- and maybe that's why I like this movie so much, it reminds me of me.
So there you have it, just some of the movies that have sent me running from the aisle, but I'll turn it over to you; leave your votes for the worst matrimonial examples on the big screen...