Trisha’s Take: Valentine’s Day review

Valentine’s Day

Directed by Garry Marshall
Starring Ashton Kutcher, Jennifer Garner, Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx and more

Despite only having been a New Yorker for six years, I think I embody some of the more stereotypical traits of one. It all started at the Valentine’s Day pre-release screening at the AMC Lincoln Square where I’d found the perfect single seat. It was located right in front of the wheelchair seating area, which is perfect for me because when you’re as short as I am, you really don’t wany anyone tall sitting in front of you. One guy was holding a seat next to him and there were open seats on either side of us. However, no matter how often we were asked, we refused to move over to put two empty spaces next to us because, hey—! If you’d wanted good seats, you should have gotten to the theater early.

When the guy’s friend returned, we started griping about the people who’d expected us to move, rude people in movie theaters who can’t stop yakking through the feature, people who leave their cell phones on ring mode—or worse, who send text messages during important scenes.

When the lights went down and the opening credits rolled, I mentally prepared myself for the kind of schmaltzy romp that often marks this kind of romantic comedy. What I saw instead was a credits sequence that immediately reminded me of L.A. Story, one of my most favorite movies of all time.

And that’s when I fell in love.

I imagine that when it came time to cast this movie, director Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman, Georgia Rule) and producers Mike Karz (Malibu’s Most Wanted, Good Luck Chuck) and Wayne Allan Rice (Suicide Kings, Chasing Liberty) just went through their Rolodex—or maybe just browsed their Contacts on their iPhones or BlackBerries—and called almost everyone they knew… and they know a lot of people.

The press packet describes the movie as having an “all-star ensemble cast” and with Academy Award winners and nominees like Jamie Foxx, Anne Hathaway, Hector Elizondo, Shirley MacLaine and Julia Robers in key roles, that’s no lie. The statue-winners are joined by other romantic comedy or small screen stars like Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Biel, Topher Grace, Jennifer Garner, Bradley Cooper in the other key roles and the pairings that result are a mix of both the expected and unexpected.

Kutcher is paired with Jessica Alba, to whom he proposes on the morning of a Valentine’s Day in contemporary Los Angeles. On the side, however, is his best friend played by Garner who wakes up in bed next to her handsome lover, a surgeon played by Patrick Dempsey. If by now you’re betting that Kutcher and Garner’s characters get smoochy by the end of the movie, well then you’d be right. Their story is a pretty conventional one and it’s one that Hollywood and romance novels try to sell all the time: it’s always best to fall in love with your best friend.

Next in line is Biel who plays a PR rep for a football star (Eric Dane, aka McSteamy from “Grey’s Anatomy”) who hates Valentine’s Day so much that she holds an annual “I Hate Valentine’s Day” party. That she gets paired up with cynical sports reporter Jamie Foxx isn’t a surprise either, but at least it’s nice to see an interracial couple amidst the sea of Caucasians in the movie.

Just one step below that in terms of predictability is the story of Hathaway and Grace, a pair who is newly dating but get gobsmacked by the ideas of love and romance on this particular Valentine’s Day. I think I liked Hathaway’s character the most out of the women because she’s the most like me, a woman at the beginning of her career, trying to do what it takes to keep afloat. When the romance turns near the climax of the movie, I actually felt so much antagonism towards Grace’s character that I flipped him the bird, right from my seat.

Being an entire generation older that the actors embodying the teen romances (Taylor Lautner with Taylor Swift and Carter Jenkins with Emma Roberts) I mostly tuned out for their scenes, but I can say that any adult who preaches chastity to their kids will be very happy that the steamiest thing that happens is that the two Taylors do a lot of on-screen smooching with their clothes on.

Elizondo and MacLaine play a long-time married couple who care for their grandson whose mother is not in the picture. The casual love they show for each other is grand to see, but then there’s a twist that almost seems like it’s forced just so Elizondo can get out of his house in time to impart some much-needed wisdom to Grace.

But I do have to say that my most favorite pairing is between Cooper and Roberts, mostly because it’s a sweet flipside of the combustible frequent flyer romance between George Clooney and Vera Farmiga’s characters in Up in the Air. I absolutely will not spoil what happens in the end, but watching it made me wish that all meetings like theirs and what happened as a result took place more often and without fuss.

There’s much to be said about the music in this movie, and not just because Taylor Swift contributes the penultimate song “Today Was a Fairytale.” Almost all of the featured songs are covers of classic songs about love, and I have versions of those songs on my iPod right now which meant that everytime a new tune popped into the film, my smile grew wider because it served to emphasize how much this film seemed to be made for me.

By now you’re probably wondering why I like this movie if I can find so many things to pick at about it—and this is just the tip of the iceberg—and I think it’s because even though the stories that are interwoven are so familiar, it’s done in such a deft way and the actors seem to be having so much fun with their parts that the theme of this movies shines through the problematic writing.

(It also doesn’t hurt at all that there seems to be a hearty “Fuck you!” aimed at Proposition 8 supporters in both the middle and towards the end of the movie, and those two scenes just made me feel so warm inside.)

If you find yourself alone on the day, there are worse things you could do than seeing Valentine’s Day which is rated PG-13 for some sexual material and brief partial nudity, oh so very partial, and opens this week on February 12.

Posted on February 10, 2010 at 07:42 by Trisha Lynn · Permalink
In: Reviews

3 Responses

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  1. Written by Kjity
    on 2010-02-10 at 15:39

    I hope you bought yourself something nice with the money they paid you to type that.

  2. Written by TrishaLynn77
    on 2010-02-11 at 02:16

    I acknowledged that the movie's got tons of flaws and there are a ton of Caucasians in it, but what's wrong with liking a brainless movie every now and then?

    In fact, I think another reason why I liked this movie so much is that it reminded me of those summer TV movies they used to do with stars from across the networks like Poison Ivy from 1985 starring Michael J. Fox and Nancy McKeon.

    Not every ensemble movie has to or can be The Big Chill or Crash.

  3. Written by Gordon McAlpin
    on 2010-02-11 at 02:19

    Yeah, because a three-star review is so glowing, jackass.

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