How was your Valentine’s Day? Are you still in a haze of happy, suffering a love hangover, or glad it’s over for another year?
Michaeline was in the spotlight here yesterday, and she celebrated with a smorgasbord of love letters and an exhortation to share the love in a broader sense. I like that idea, and since the Ladies have been all about love at the movies lately, I’m going to share my passion for the brilliant 2013 zombie rom-com Warm Bodies.
Stay with me, please, even if zombies aren’t your cup of tea. I’m choosing this movie as my Valentine’s weekend recommendation because the entire story is about the importance of love. It’s a zombie Romeo and Juliet – a darkly humorous romance in which a cute guy (loosely speaking) falls for a cute girl from a community (species?) that’s at war with his – but it successfully gives the legendary story the happy ending I long for every time I see the play, or ballet, or musical. The hero and heroine find true love together, reconcile their warring communities, and act as a catalyst for a lasting change that saves the world. That’s one mighty hit of happy. And the movie advocates kindness, and generosity, and compassion, and connection, without ever taking one step towards a soap box.
One of the big challenges in any kind of story-telling is to make the reader bond with the protagonist – to make us care about him or her. This was my problem with one of Michaeline’s favorite movies, Groundhog Day: when we first meet him, Bill Murray’s character, Phil, is such an egotistical asshat that he’s not remotely sympathetic. Phil lost me at hello. I didn’t care what happened to him, so his dark moment and eventual redemption left me unmoved.
Warm Bodies does a fantastic job in persuading the viewer to bond with R., the hero. It’s remarkable, because R. doesn’t/can’t speak for maybe the first third of the movie –he grunts. He’s pale, red-eyed and stooping, and he does the gruesome flesh-eating zombie thing. But he has an internal monologue, and the contrast between the funny, articulate character that we see, and the shuffling, grunting creature that the human heroine sees, makes him vulnerable and sympathetic. It’s like the cinematic version of close third person POV. We’re in his head. We know the true R., and we are on his side, holding our breath and hoping that Julie will eventually see what we see.
Unlike some of the movies on AMC’s 50 Greatest Romantic Movies list (as discussed by Michille last Thursday), Warm Bodies emphatically meets the Romance Writers of America’s definition of a romance: A Central Love Story (individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work) and An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending (lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love). And for fans of Shakespeare, there’s bonus fun in spotting exactly how many elements of the original play have been incorporated. For example, there’s an excellent balcony scene. That makes me smile every time.
Have you seen this movie? Do you see it the same way I do?
If you haven’t seen it, did I convince you to try it? If you’re wavering, check out the official trailer on Youtube.
If you’re sure it’s not your thing, what would you recommend instead? Not just a great romance, but a story that shares the love and makes the world a better place?