In the ‘80s, I dated a woman from Yale who caused a scene at a hockey game. I was never Yale material, and I remember thinking this whole thing was quite the big deal, partially because we met in an unlikely place to meet a woman from Yale. I was hanging out one evening at a joint in downtown Minneapolis where a friend of mine was bartending. It was not exactly a high-end spot, and the odds of hearing somebody say something idiotic at any given moment were fairly high. It was in that particular bar that I met a woman while I was waiting for my friend. We started talking, and fairly early on in the conversation she mentioned that she had gone to Yale. The idea that I might meet a Yale grad—particularly a beautiful woman Yale grad, and at this joint—was simply astonishing to me.
And yet Roz and I ended up dating. One night, early on in the romance I took her to a University of Minnesota Golden Gopher hockey game. Turns out, Roz hated hockey and was yammering on and on about her days as a student at Yale. It was really getting on my nerves but I was trying to be polite and respond while watching the hockey game at the same time. Finally, after about ten minutes of her going on and on about Yale, this guy sitting in front of us turned around and looked her and said: “Hey, will you shut the f… up about Yale? We’re trying to watch a hockey game here!” She was upset and we had to leave and I missed a really great hockey game.
A couple weeks later she called me up and said she wanted to talk. I said it was a bad time to talk, but what is it?
“We have to break up,” she said.
“We do?” I said. “Why?”
“Well, for one thing, you’re in a good mood all the time, “ she said.
“I can be cranky every once in a while.” I said.
“No,” she said. “It has to be real.”
I paused for a long time.
“That’s it?” I said. “That’s all you’ve got?”
“Yes,” she said.
“Okay,” I said. “I’ve got to go, so have a good rest of your life.”
I hung up. It was not meant to be. We were opposites. We were attracted to each other, but the attraction couldn’t overcome the fact that I was generally a perky person without an Ivy League degree. Fate tore us apart. Well, fate and the rude guy in front of us at the hockey game.
The movies, however, are not like real life. Or at least not like my real life. In the movies, opposites attract… and it works! Here are my five favorite examples of unlikely duos in the movies.
One of the most charming couples in film history is Humphrey Bogart as the coarse and cynical boat captain Charlie Allnut and Katharine Hepburn as the prim and proper missionary Rose Sayer. Tragedy brings these two together as they are forced to journey alone down an African river together. Charlie’s a drunk and a cynic. Rose is a teetotaler and deeply religious. The scene where Charlie drunkenly discovers Rose has thrown away his gin: delightful and real. If you’ve never seen this John Huston adventure/comedy/romance, what are you waiting for? It’s completely wonderful.
This is one of my favorite comedies of all time. Chris Farley, the wastrel son and heir to an auto parts factory goes on a road trip with David Spade, the anal-retentive accountant. It’s an incredibly funny and ultimately heart-warming movie in which two oddballs manage to build a friendship despite being utter opposites. This movie has one of my favorite laugh-out-loud scenes in the movies: Chris Farley and David Spade singing along with the Carpenters on the road… and the inevitable car crash that ensues. Plus, it has Chris Farley singing “Fat Man in a Little Coat.” Who could want for anything more?
Shrek and Donkey are the unlikely pair here. Mike Myers voices the shy and ill-tempered loner ogre named Shrek, using a Scottish accent (inexplicable, but it completely works), and Eddie Murphy is the loudmouth, high-strung, neurotic donkey who just does not shut up. All of the Shrek movies are delightful, but this one is especially fun. It remains fresh with each viewing, and I think that is mainly attributable to the amusingly-strained friendship that develops between these two characters.
My guess is that when you heard the premise to this movie, you probably said, “Nah.” Well, trust me on this one; this movie is really worth a view. Ryan Gosling plays a lonely and socially-inept man who develops a relationship with a life-size doll he ordered from an adult website. Nancy Oliver’s brilliant screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award. Directed by Craig Gillespie, who went on to direct, among others, I, Tonya. I know this seems like an odd movie to recommend, but it really has a profound and humane heart.
Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl are completely believable and sympathetic as two complete opposites who are forced into a relationship after a drunken night and its resulting pregnancy. Seth Rogen’s character is a slacker living in a rundown house in the San Fernando Valley, while Katherine Heigl is an ambitious young television producer living in a guest house in Brentwood. A sober meeting between the two of them in a coffeehouse would have yielded nothing. But a drunken evening, an unprotected hookup... and suddenly these two complete opposites are looking at parenting together. I have watched this Judd Apatow movie probably ten times, and have not found a false beat in it once. A real and funny and painful look at contemporary adults being unexpectedly thrust into parenthood.
David Raether is a veteran TV writer and essayist. He worked for 12 years as a television sitcom writer/producer, including a 111-episode run on the ground-breaking ABC comedy “Roseanne.” His essays have been published by Salon.com, The Times of London, and Longforms.org, and have been lauded by The Atlantic Magazine and the BBC World Service. His memoir, Homeless: A Picaresque Memoir from Our Times, is awaiting publication.