Over the weekend, I encountered the good, the bad and the bizarre in regards to relationships. The Good: Saturday night, I saw the romantic comedy Serendipity for the second time, getting a healthy dose of sugar-spun goodness. The Bad: Sunday morning, I read the New York Times Magazine only to be depressed by tales of “never marrieds,” medicated couples addicted to Prozac and even a treatise “on the tyranny of two.” The Bizarre: Sunday night, I receive an e-mail from the Internet site SecretlyKissed.com informing me that someone “with the hots” for me has secretly “kissed” me, and won’t I please register with their program and start cyber-kissing as well? Um, no. Considering that I got the e-mail from a filtered mail service, I am sad to report to the general populace that even anonymous e-mail relationship services spam random individuals.
But as I perused through the NYT Magazine’s take on 21st century couples, I was particularly struck by the article tracing relationship patterns in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. Stirred to action, couples have been motivated to reunite with old flames, call off stagnant relationships—anything to avoid emotional limbo. It’s almost as if we have stepped onto the screen of a cinematic romance: Either we’re passionate Camilles doomed to tragedy, or we’re chipper Meg Ryans, ready to win the hero with a scrunch of our nose. And to a certain extent, that’s great. That’s what the movies are for—escapism and entertainment. In the case of romantic comedies, where the outcome is pre-determined by the marquee (Did you really think that Bill Pullman was going to triumph over Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle? Or Cary Grant was going to let Ralph Bellamy win Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday?), the joy is in watching the pursuit.
In Serendipity, the pursuit spans over the magical movie period of “a few years.” Jonathan Trager (John Cusack) woos Sara Thomas (Kate Beckinsale), she succumbs (and what girl wouldn’t), she complicates matters by kookily insisting they need to be re-brought together by destiny and boom—after a series of mishaps, the happy couple is reunited at the end. Rarely is real life so simple. If you stop to think about the logistics of the film, both Cusack’s and Beckinsale’s characters leave perfectly lovely fiancées at the altar. Jonathan deserts a girl who’s thoughtful enough to remember his favorite book, and Sara’s fiancée visits every hotel in New York City alphabetically to discern her location. Both are fantastic relationships that may simply need some work, and each person’s obvious rage and hurt are neatly brushed aside for the film.
For that’s were the truth comes out: Couples don’t need to consistently play the hero and heroine of their own romantic comedy. There’s a satisfaction to struggling through and fine-tuning a relationship. The key is to simply enjoy saccharine sweet films, but to cherish human relationships for the complex mystery that they are. After all, I find it highly improbable that even the happiest of couples don’t have their share of disagreements—who knows what happens after the end credits roll?
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