Years ago, while I was a student in Montreal, a friend of mine became smitten with a particular girl. I don’t know what she did to get him, but she got him. Sadly, the feeling was not mutual. As this was around the time the quirky, romantic French movie Amélie came out, Jean-Claude (name has been changed to protect the ill-advised) thought the best way to charm Marie (name has been changed to protect the otherwise oblivious) was to set up elaborate clues around the city, à la the heroine of that movie.
He set up a personalized scavenger hunt around Montreal, starting with directions written in chalk outside of the metro station she used every day, and ending with him waiting for her at a café. He hid little gifts and notes in unexpected places for her to find. Things like that. I wish I could give further details, but as he was describing his master plan to me, I set myself on fire to end the feeling of second-hand embarrassment.
To the surprise of absolutely nobody except poor Jean-Claude, “Operation Amélie” was not a success. The girl did not suddenly fall in love with my misguided friend — in fact, she was freaked out. Things that work in whimsical, fairy-tale movie Paris rarely translate well in real life. Who’s going to follow cryptic, anonymous directions scrawled on the sidewalk? That could either be the start of a romantic French fantasy or the pre-credits scene in an episode of Law and Order: SVU. (If I remember correctly, he only used her first name. The possibility of another Marie following the directions was never considered.)
But it’s not just us regular Joes whose romantic ideals were formed (or warped) by Hollywood. In his delightfully titled memoir Soulacoaster, The Diary of Me, R&B mad genius and Looney Tunes aficionado R. Kelly describes how the 2004 Ryan Gosling slumber party classic The Notebook torpedoed his marriage. The Pied Piper of R&B was so moved by the movie’s portrayal of true love that, “as the film credits started to roll, I couldn’t move. I burst into tears. People walking past me patted me on the back, trying to console me. The Notebook was beautiful, and I was crying because its hero and heroine had died together. But I was also crying because I remembered a Valentine’s Day — when a helicopter dropped a rainfall of roses — that had come and gone … My marriage had died. And there was nothing I could do to bring it back.”
I, for one, would like to hear more about R’s Valentine’s Day “present.” Notice how Kells describes a rainfall of “roses” and not “rose petals” — it actually sounds terrifying.
In any case, it’s best to exercise a healthy skepticism when viewing romance on film. These ideas rarely make the leap into real life.
Image, top of post: Amélie, via IMDB.com.
What about the ladies of the Slice readership? Is movie-style romance actually romantic — or would you call the cops?
Paul Beer is a Toronto writer, actor and comedian. You can follow him on twitter @pauldanielbeer.