A delightfully charming musical romantic comedy, Bells Are Ringing stars Dean Martin and Judy Holliday. Ella is a kindhearted telephone answering service operator who can’t help but meddle in her customers’ lives: making love connections and arranging employment opportunities. She’s in love with one of her clients: Jeffrey, a playwright with writer’s block. The storyline is full of silliness and warmth, and the film is definitely one worth revisiting (and thanks to Debbie for the recommendation).
John Cusack and Catherine Zeta-Jones play America’s sweethearts (Eddie and Gwen): they’re actors who married, starred in several movies together, then split publicly and messily (sounds like real life, right?). The studio needs them to promote their final movie, and sends veteran publicist Lee (Billy Crystal) to control the chaos. Add Julia Roberts as Kiki, Gwen’s sister/assistant, and you’ve got America’s Sweethearts, a comedy about love and the ridiculousness of Hollywood.
Although this is a movie you can watch any time of year, I always seem to revisit Love Actually in December. Set in London, the film follows eight loosely related couples in the month leading up to Christmas. It’s not all happy endings in this romantic dramedy, but I’d still call this one a feel good movie. One of my favorite moments is Hugh Grant’s dance scene through 10 Downing Street (he plays the prime minister). You’ll see lots of other familiar faces including Colin Firth, Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andrew Lincoln, and Martin Freeman.
In the mood for a Christmas movie? We’ve got a whole list.
In 1935 England, 13-year-old Briony witnesses her sister and a young man interact and misinterprets it. Later she tells a lie about a rape and Robbie, the son of a family servant, is sent to prison. Her older sister Cecelia loves Robbie, but the lie changes their lives forever and the consequences are devastating. Three years later, England is at war and the two lovers try to reunite.
Atonement has an excellent cast. Kiera Knightley (Cecelia) has never been better, and James McAvoy (Robbie) is perfect as the wronged lover and soldier. Saoirse Ronan plays Briony. The war scenes are realistic, and the story based on the novel by Ian McEwan is superb.
Blythe Danner portrays widow Carol Petersen, who is grieving multiple losses. She survives her daily struggles with a little help from her friends (played by Martin Starr, Mary Kay Place, June Squibb, and Rhea Perlman). In I’ll See You in My Dreams, 70ish Danner creates a very warm and realistic character in this first leading role of her career. She proves “tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
A darling contemporary fantasy, Penelope is the story of a girl affected by a family curse. Due to a great-grandfather’s perfidy, Penelope (Christina Ricci) is born with a pig snout. Legend says only love from one of her own kind can break the curse, and so her mother (Catherine O’Hara) arranges introductions to a string of blue bloods as potential husbands.
Enter Max (James McAvoy). He and Penelope connect, yet something’s not quite right. Penelope flees home, embarking on her first adventure at the age of 25. This charming modern fairy tale isn’t always what it seems.
In this gangster comedy, Angela de Marco (Michelle Pfeiffer) is unhappily married to mobster Frank de Marco (Alec Baldwin). When she finds herself unexpectedly widowed, Angela grabs her young son and runs away to lose herself in the big city. Somewhat bumbling FBI agent Mike Downey (Matthew Modine) goes undercover as he tries to bring big mob boss Tony Russo (Dean Stockwell) to justice. He becomes involved with the lovely young widow. Funny and sweet, you’ll be rooting for Angela all the way in Married to the Mob.
This screwball comedy from the golden age of movies is the story of a backward scientist who falls in love twice with the same woman. Picked up by an ocean liner on his way home from a scientific expedition in South America, Charles Pike (Henry Fonda), heir of the Pike’s Ale Pikes, falls under the charms of shipboard card sharps, one of them the beautiful Jean (Barbara Stanwyck). Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered by the beautiful Jean, he proposes, only to find out Jean’s true background and break off the engagement.
Bent on revenge, Jean shows up in Connecticut, now sporting an English accent and presenting herself as the Lady Eve. Smitten all over again, young Charles does exactly what Jean had planned—falls in love with her all over again. Unluckily for Jean and her plans, though, she kind of loves the backward boy.
This romantic comedy stars Barbra Streisand and Jeff Bridges. They both teach at Columbia University. Good looking but stiff and awkward, Gregory (Bridges) has had his share of troubles with the gorgeous but none-too-stimulating women he dates as well as with engaging his students. Rose (Streisand), an intelligent, popular teacher with limited dating options, struggles to find her self-worth and confidence in relationships. Gregory advertises for an intellectual companion, “physical appearance unimportant,” and unbeknownst to Rose, her beautiful sister (Mimi Rogers) responds to the ad for her. This sets the stage for a meeting and subsequent relationship between Rose and Gregory. Respect and friendship vs. attraction and desire result in a witty, enjoyable film. Lauren Bacall and Pierce Brosnan have fun secondary roles in The Mirror Has Two Faces.
The year is 1987 and recent college graduate James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) is making big plans to tour Europe and attend graduate school in pursuit of his dream of a career in journalism. Big financial problems arise and he instead starts to look for a summer job. He finds one at a run-down amusement park in western Pennsylvania. He meets Emily (Kristen Stewart), a coworker and develops a relationship with her.
James falls in love with Emily but later finds out she is seeing another worker at the park. They break up while the whole entire amusement park knows all about them. Emily leaves for New York, humiliated and sad she broke James’s heart and lost the best chance at love. James shows up at Emily’s apartment in New York and tells her he sees her in a different way than she sees herself.
Adventureland is full of humor, nostalgia, a sweet coming-of-age story that adults and teens will enjoy.