Spring and summer are for sexy. But fall, especially October, is for romance. Why? Well, there’s a nip in the air and as soon as evening comes, you naturally want to cuddle up to someone. It’s genetically imprinted on us. Paleo men and women were walking around in loin cloths and getting all sweaty in the summer. Who wants to snuggle up to that? Throw a nice snuggly bearskin schmatta over that on a chilly autumn afternoon, and baby, I’m ready to fall in love.
It’s October now. We’ll get to the scary Halloween movies soon enough. Now is the time for you to be renting movies about autumn romance. Here’s my list of the movies to put into your dvd player this month.
Is this movie a little hackneyed and mawkish and full of pretty mediocre acting? Yes. Does that mean I don’t love it? NO! I love it and you should too. The movie was based on the book of the same name by a Harvard professor of classics, Erich Segal. Segal had a Ph.D. in Greek and Latin and was settling into a nice quiet life as a classicist at Harvard. His first book was an academic tome about the ancient Roman writer Plautus. You remember him, right? Comedy writer. His life—and Segal’s book—was the tangential basis for the musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962). Segal then went on to co-write the screenplay for the animated Beatles movie Yellow Submarine (1968). His novel Love Story couldn’t find a publisher, so his agent suggested he turn it into a screenplay. The rest is Kleenex history. Go ahead, rent it again. It’s not that great, but I bet you a batch of gingersnap cookies you’ll be crying at the end of this story of a doomed romance between an elitist Harvard boy and the Radcliffe girl from the wrong side of the tracks.
The legend on this movie is that it was originally written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck as a thriller about a working class super genius in Boston and the CIA, etc. Zzzzz… The director, Gus Van Sant, hired screenwriter William Goldman to rework the script, dropping the thriller parts and writing more about the Will Hunting character and his therapist. Minnie Driver plays the Harvard Medical School student who falls for working class Will (who falls for her as well) and their troubled journey to a relationship that works. Robin Williams won the Academy Award for his role as Matt Damon’s therapist. It’s a lovely and bittersweet love story that has many touching aspects, and Williams’ performance is incredibly moving.
This is just about everyone’s favorite romantic comedy. Director Rob Reiner and screenwriter Nora Ephron pose the eternal question: can men and women really be just friends? Their answer: uh, no. Normally, Billy Crystal gets on my nerves in just about anything. Not here. He’s just fantastic as Harry, and Meg Ryan is even better as Sally. This movie is worth watching just for the scene where Ryan fakes an orgasm in a deli and the elderly woman sitting next to Ryan tells the waitress: “I’ll have what she’s having.” That woman? Rob Reiner’s mom. By the way, this scene was created when they were rehearsing and Ephron said that women fake orgasms, which was a shocking piece of news to Reiner. Ryan agreed with Ephron and then suggested that she fake an orgasm in the deli. The rest is movie history.
Another truly wonderful romantic comedy with Meg Ryan. This time the guy is Tom Hanks. What you may not know about this movie is that it is the third remake of a story based on a Hungarian play from 1937. The Hungarian play, Parfumerie, was made into an American movie in 1940, starring Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart (of course), named The Shop Around the Corner (remember Meg Ryan’s bookstore in You’ve Got Mail? It was named “The Shop Around the Corner” as a nod to the 1940 film.). Then a musical adaptation of that movie was done in 1949 called In the Good Old Summertime, starring Van Johnson and Judy Garland. No wonder. It’s an appealing story about a widowed father and a single woman shopkeeper. The marvelous script is by Nora and Delia Ephron. Nora also directed. It’s a delightful movie and it’s high time you watched it again.
Yes, I know, this isn’t a romance. But it is about a love of life and how you recover it or discover it for the first time. Chris O’Donnell plays a scholarship student at an elite boarding school in Connecticut who takes a job for Thanksgiving weekend as a caretaker of a cranky, alcoholic, blind, retired Army Ranger (Al Pacino). Both characters are in the midst of life crises of very different types, and after a sequence of misadventures (including blind tango dancing and blind Ferrari driving and crashing a Thanksgiving dinner unwanted), both of them capture a renewed passion for their lives. Time to watch this one again.
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.