Movies to Watch Whether You Love or Hate Valentine's Day – The New York Times

Gina Prince-Bythewood’s brilliant directorial debut cares equally about the two nouns referenced in its title, which is one of the reasons it’s so special. A sprawling movie, it charts the years-long game of emotional one-on-one between Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps), childhood neighbors who both have dreams of hoops stardom. As Monica and Quincy age, Prince-Bythewood unpacks the ways in which these competitive people both clash and fall into each other’s arms. On top of that, it’s one of the rare movies about the challenges of being a female athlete all while remaining incredibly sexy on and off the court.
If anyone starts to bemoan the current state of rom-coms I point them to “Rye Lane” from the director Raine Allen Miller. It’s a walk-and-talk in the style of “Before Sunrise” in which two Londoners, Dom (David Jonsson) and Yas (Vivian Oparah), meet at an art show where we first encounter Dom crying in a bathroom stall over his ex’s betrayal. Yas and Dom spend a chaotic day wandering around the neighborhood of the movie’s title, complete with awkward encounters with former partners and a lot of delightful banter. Miller’s inspired creative direction makes “Rye Lane” especially vibrant.
Romance onscreen doesn’t have to be only for the young, as is the case in Ira Sachs’s moving film about connection that endures. Alfred Molina and John Lithgow do some of their finest work as George and Ben, a couple who are forced apart by homophobia and the high price of New York real estate. George is fired from his job as a choir teacher at a Catholic school after he and Ben finally marry after decades together. Without that income, they have to sell their apartment, and when their friends and family can’t accommodate them both crashing together, they are required to live in different locations. Ultimately, however, Sachs creates a testament to the power of love that is stronger than distance and age.
Preston Sturges’s “The Lady Eve” is a delightfully wild pinnacle of the screwball form, where love triumphs over lunacy. The great Barbara Stanwyck is at her sultriest as Jean Harrington, a con artist who sets her sights on Charles Pike (Henry Fonda), the nervous, snake-obsessed heir to an ale fortune, luring him into a card game where her associates will scam him out of his money. As is often the case in these kinds of plots, both parties develop actual feelings for one another that get thrown for a loop when the extent of the ruse is revealed. And then Sturges throws another deception on top of the initial one, increasing the lunacy, but making the ending that much sweeter.
The dream of a perfect nice Jewish boy comes alive in Joan Micklin Silver’s still woefully underrated “Crossing Delancey.” Amy Irving plays Isabelle Grossman, a bookseller whose Lower East Side bubbe surprises her with a meeting, set up by the local matchmaker, with Sam Posner (Peter Riegert), a pickle vendor. Considering herself a modern woman, Isabelle is resistant to the arrangement, but finds herself charmed by the unpretentious and sweet Sam, a born storyteller, connected to a version of New York culture that’s disappearing. Irving and Riegert stare at each other with such intensity it’s hard not to be convinced their characters are perfect for one another.
You could easily throw on any of the director Ari Aster’s three features if you want to wallow in Valentine’s Day misery, but “Midsommar” is the most acidic of his works, especially when it comes to the subject of romantic relationships. Dani (Florence Pugh), still reeling from a horrific tragedy, tags along with her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) and his grad school friends on a trip to a remote Swedish village. The idyllic landscape soon turns into a nightmare full of bizarre and bloody rituals, but what’s most nightmarish is how inattentive Christian is when it comes to Dani’s personal trauma. He eventually comes to rue being one of the worst boyfriends we’ve ever seen onscreen.
The clever twist of Wes Craven’s 2005 thriller “Red Eye” is that it starts off like a rom-com with a meet cute to boot. On a stormy night, Rachel McAdams’s Lisa Reisert and Cillian Murphy’s Jackson Rippner (yes, that is his name) encounter each other at an airport. He leaps to her defense in a hairy situation with an agitated traveler, and then they flirt over cocktails. But then the flight starts and Jackson, true to his name, turns out to be a terrorist who wants to use her position as a hotel manager to carry out an assassination. It’s a reminder never to trust that cute stranger, because there just might be menace behind those ocean eyes.
The director P.J. Hogan’s “My Best Friend’s Wedding” has a reputation as one of the great 1990s romantic comedies, but it’s far nastier than its brethren. After all, it’s less about its protagonist trying to find love than it is about her on a mission to ruin lives. Don’t let the fact that it stars Julia Roberts fool you. It features the actress at her most bitter as Julianne Potter, a woman on a warpath after she discovers her longtime friend (Dermot Mulroney), with whom she had made a marriage pact, is engaged to a college student (Cameron Diaz). Single herself, Julianne goes about humiliating the bride-to-be, and while there is a wedding in the end, Hogan refuses to give Julianne her own romantic happy ending.
If you want to use Valentine’s Day to plant seeds of distrust between you and a partner, I might suggest Ruben Ostlund’s “Force Majeure.” The plot revolves around a family on a ski trip in the French Alps. When an avalanche hits the outdoor patio where the group is eating, Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke), immediately flees, abandoning his wife, Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli), and their children, but making sure to grab his phone. The rest of the film excruciatingly unpacks the tension that develops from that incident, as Tomas denies that he ran and Ebba feels gaslit by his perspective. It’s a movie of simmering resentment that plunges you into the uncomfortable positions of its protagonists. “What would you do?” becomes an existential question.
The sourness in Albert Brooks’s “Modern Romance” starts from its very opening scene, a painfully awkward breakup, in which Brooks’s character Robert Cole compares the “no-win” situation of his relationship with Mary Harvard (Kathryn Harrold) to “Vietnam.” Ostensibly, the rest of “Modern Romance” is about Robert and Mary finding their way back to one another after Robert quickly regrets his decision to end things. But Brooks is far too neurotic and cynical for it to be as simple as that. “Modern Romance” is essentially a (very funny) portrait of a man spiraling over a relationship he tells us in the first minutes of the movie is doomed.
Produced by Nico Chilla, Alicia DeSantis, Mekado Murphy, Tala Safie and Josephine Sedgwick.







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