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The Dartmouth
May 19, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Deep Cuts: Valentine’s Day Edition

Tess Bowler recommends romantic movies for your Valentine's Day viewing.

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When I was sixteen, I broke up with my high school boyfriend in the worst way possible. Let me set the scene: It’s the week before Valentine’s Day and I’m sitting at the dinner table doing homework; I was reading “Pride and Prejudice” for class — all too ironic. My phone won’t stop buzzing because my boyfriend and I are text-arguing about whatever high schoolers fight over. The distraction is driving me crazy because at that time I cared about school more than most things — including relationships — and I got so annoyed that I just called him up and ended it. On the phone. The week of Valentine’s Day. 

Don’t feel too bad for him, it was a long time coming. 

As much as this anecdote makes me sound like a total heartbreaker, I am in fact the opposite. Or at least I like to think of myself that way. The truth is that I’ve probably played all the roles at some point. I’m sure some people see me as a head trip they can’t figure out, whereas others think of me as the — unfortunately — devoted lover or maybe even the “girl next door.” I know I’m not alone in this; love brings out the best, worst and everything in between in people, especially in college. 

So, for whatever mood you’re in this Valentine’s Day season — if you’re with your significant other, your gal-pal or even just by yourself — kick back and enjoy the show. 


1. The Rules of Attraction (Amazon Prime, free with ads) 

It’s a Friday night, or maybe a Saturday. You go to a party and hit the keg. You fill your cup and realize it’s mostly foam because you showed up late. Later, your ex-girlfriend gives you a pitiful smile while walking upstairs with some guy you vaguely dislike. You talk with a girl that you know the way everyone knows everyone at school — you’ve never actually met but know of each other’s cliques. You aren’t interested at first, but unbeknownst to you this is the next girl you’ll fall in love with… but she won’t fall for you. 

This sound familiar? Good, welcome to college -—or, at least, Camden College, the fictional university portrayed in “The Rules of Attraction.” In the simplest terms, the film follows three students — a drug dealer, a mysterious virgin and their bisexual classmate — who become involved in a scalene (love) triangle. 

Admittedly, the plot can easily be viewed as shallow. “Rules of Attraction” is a tale of sex, drugs and rock and roll with a side of half-baked postmodernism that feels a caricature of college — bottling up all the highs and lows one can experience during undergrad in just under two hours.

For me, “Rules of Attraction” is as thought-provoking as it is indulgent, especially for college students. The characters’ amoral behavior isn’t an idolization of hedonism, but a satirical condemnation of it, as their actions only lead to one mess after another. One minute, you’re wondering why they did something hurtful, and the next, you’re reminded of when you did something similar amidst the confusion of youth — and you feel bad. Director Roger Avary and writer Bret Easton Ellis’ moral of the story: “Deal with it”, as character Sean Bateman always says, but rarely ever does. 

2. Moonstruck (Showtime) 

The first time I saw “Moonstruck,” it was a hard sell to 14-year-old me who had only known Nicholas Cage from the “National Treasure” series — but to this day, it’s my favorite rom-com. 

It begins when  Loretta Castorini, who is a widow, indifferently accepts a proposal from her boyfriend, only to fall in love with his estranged brother — Cher plays the widow, and Cage stars as Ronny Cammareri, who is the brother of her fiancé. The surprisingly endearing pairing meets when Loretta goes to Ronny’s bakery to invite him to the wedding, and he explains the hilariously tragic backstory as to why he no longer speaks to his brother. After they share dinner that night, it becomes clear they have much more chemistry than the couple-to-be. 

However, “Moonstruck” isn’t solely about romance. Like any good movie centered around Italians, it includes family in its definition of love. It features two traditional communities spanning from Sicily to New York and manages to capture all of their comical dynamics as well. 

At its core, the film examines the wounds of love under the lens of dark humor. After the death of her last husband, Loretta has resigned to never finding love again. Yet, she finds it in the most unexpected of places — the brutish, primal baker that just happens to be the brother of the man she is supposed to marry. 

“Moonstruck” is melodrama at its finest — you can’t tell when to burst out in laughter or tears — but isn’t that just a little like life?

3. Closer (Netflix)

This is probably the sexiest quartet of actors ever put on the silver screen, so if you’re alone this Valentine’s Day, you’re in luck! 

Starring Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts and Clive Owen, “Closer” is the most cynical story about true love, centering on the fragmentation of two couples who engage in adulterous affairs with one another and the years-long tension that ensues. 

Ultimately, they all end up back in the relationship they started, no matter how dissatisfied their original position made them in the first place. It begs seemingly unanswerable questions: Why do we suffer so much whilst in love — isn’t it supposed to be enjoyable? Does love, as we have been taught to define it, exist in the modern era? 

But what’s phenomenal about “Closer” is the acting. On paper, the characters come off as incredibly flat. The audience is given little background about them, save for their names and their job descriptions. Yet, each actor skillfully crafts their own persona; you hardly have to know anything about them to know the kind of people they are.