A Love Story

As much as I hate to admit it sometimes, I am a stereotypical girly-girl. I like reading chick-lit and watching rom-coms.  I put on makeup and do my hair just to make myself fell good. I get excited about new shoes. I paint my toenails. I will never, ever complain about getting flowers. I loooooove chocolate more than anything in the world. I love Mr. Darcy almost as much as I love chocolate.

This weekend I watched movies about two of the greatest, most well-known love stories. First, on Saturday, I watched the Baz Lurhman (MTV) version of Romeo + Juliet. Last night, I watched a Lost in Austen, a Pride and Prejudice movie with a twist. Aiden asked me today why I likeromance movies (he said “romance movies” with a slight sneer. I guess that’s appropriate coming from an 8 year old who still tends to think girls have cooties or something). I told him that I actually only like romance comedies, but in my head I was thinking, “Because deep down inside I’m just a mushy romantic!” I don’t think he’ll understand for quite some time.

Now, I have seen Romeo + Juliet before. It came out when I was a freshman in college. I still had a crush on Leonardo diCaprio (left over from watching him on “Growing Pains), and everyone at the time was telling me I looked just like Juliet. Claire Danes was pretty cute, so I took it as a compliment. I have seen several versions of Romeo and Juliet in both film and on stage. I have read lots of books that take the same theme of the star-crossed lovers. I have seen West Side Story too many times to count. I have read Romeo and Juliet several times, too. That does not make me an R&J expert, but it certainly gives me an unshakable opinion.

I hate Romeo and Juliet. I mean, I really, really hate Romeo and Juliet. It’s just ridiculous and depressing. I mean, we start off with a whiny Romeo who is soooo in love with Rosalind and he can’t shut up about her, until he sees Juliet at the party he crashed. Suddenly, Rosalind never existed and he is completely in love with this other 13 year old girl. That’s right. THIRTEEN. Even in Shakespeare’s day that was considered young, thank you very much. So the two teenagers are “in love” and secretly marry. Meanwhile, their friends and relatives (many of whom -*cough*Mercutio*cough – I love as characters) are fighting and killing each other off. Romeo is banished for being an idiot and killing Juliet’s cousin. Her family is devastated by this death, yet they decide to marry Juliet off  to Most Eligible Bachelor, Paris, right away. So she fakes her death. Romeo doesn’t get the memo, goes to her tomb, talks for probably 20 minutes, then commits suicide. Juliet wakes up from her fake death, sees a dead Romeo, and commits suicide. I always thought if Romeo talked for 2 more minutes (which wouldn’t have been a stretch by then), she would have just woken up and everything would end up fine. But know. He dies. She wakes up. She dies. Gag.

There are many things about the MTV version that I hate (so many things are just stinkin’ weird. And really? Drug use?? Could have done without that. ), but there are a few things that I actually love. As I may have mentioned, I love Mercutio. He is just a wonderful character. (I heard that Shakespeare had to kill him off because he was too strong of a character and was taking over, but the play was supposed to be all about Romeo and Juliet. Not Mercutio. I don’t know if any of that is true. I had a roommate tell me a professor speculated about it in her Shakespeare class. I like the theory, anyway.) I love how both Mercutio and Benvolio were portrayed in this version. Just strong, eclectic, complex characters. Not just Romeo’s buddies.

The main thing I love about this “new” version is the final death scene. In all previous versions I’ve seen, I hate how long and drawn out the scene is. I hate how straight-forward it is, too. Very dull. In the Baz Luhrmann version, Romeo is talking away, but is so overcome with grief that he doesn’t notice Juliet start to come out of her coma. It’s so slight… a finger twitch here, a flutter of the eyelashes there… but he is still going on and on and on about Juliet and death and… I don’t know. I tune him out now. Anyway, Juliet opens her eyes and sees her Romeo, smiles, then reaches up to caress his face. He drinks the poison just as she is reaching for him. And then there is this look. He sees that she is alive, and this look of complete horror quickly passes through his eyes and he realizes what he has done. And then Romeo dies. Juliet is confused, of course, and then comes the grief. It is the most heart-wrenching scene. It was done so absolutely perfect.

I still hate Romeo and Juliet. But I can forgive it for this one scene. Thank you, Baz Luhrmann.

Now, the other movie I saw is based off a romantic couple that I absolutely adore. Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. Yes, there is quite a bit of ridiculousness going on in Pride and Prejudice, but I love the wit of Jane Austen and the spunk of her characters. And yes, I love Mr. Darcy. I love Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. Someone needs to just buy me that version of P&P already. The wait on Netflix is too long.

Elizabeth Bennett can hold her own. That girl is strong and witty… I just love her and want to be her. Sure, she wants to get married, but she isn’t defined by it. She isn’t silly like her younger sisters, and she isn’t so complacent that she gets walked all over, like her older sister. Love her as much as I do, I just don’t admire Jane as much as Lizzy. Jane is a sweet girl, a pretty face, and all around kind… but she doesn’t have the depth that Elizabeth does. My opinion, of course.

The movie I watched yesterday is a cute, British flick called Lost in Austen. Amanda Price is a modern girl who isn’t really in love with her boyfriend and who just wants to read her favorite book, Pride and Prejudice. And who can blame her? It really is a lovely book. Amanda knows the world of Pride and Prejudice more than her own, I think. She has read the book so many times and seen the movie almost as many times. She dreams of gentlemen and ladies with kind manners and genteel wit. One night, she finds Elizabeth Bennett in her bathroom. That’s right, Elizabeth Bennett from her favorite novel. Lizzy has discovered some kind of portal between her father’s house and Amanda’s bathroom. Next thing she knows, Amanda is living as a guest in the Bennett’s home as a “friend of Lizzy’s” and Elizabeth Bennett is living in modern times, at Amanda’s house. We don’t actually see any of our favorite heroine. This story is about Amanda Price, not Lizzy Bennett.

Poor Amanda. She is transported to the “beginning” of the story, and before she knows it, everyone is doing everything wrong! Bingley falls for her rather than Jane! She just got that all straightened out, when Jane marries Mr. Collins. Mr. Bingley becomes depressed and drinks too much. Mr. Darcy is, of course, his usual stoic, prideful self. He drives Amanda nuts with his attitudes. When Wickham shows up, Amanda spends so much time trying to get Lydia to stay away from him that Lydia runs off with Mr. Bingley instead! Amanda discovers that Wickham isn’t quite the rogue that Jane Austen made him out to be, and is actually quite helpful towards Amanda. Georgeanna Darcy has her own secret about her’s and Wickham’s previous relationship. And Caroline Bingley, while still a reprehensible human being, also carries a secret that Amanda muses Jane Austen couldn’t possibly have imagined. In the midst of the story getting completely messed up (no matter how hard Amanda tries to get it “right”), Amanda and Mr. Darcy fall in love.

If you are a fan of the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle version of Pride and Prejudice, there is one scene in Lost in Austen you will love. I literally laughed out loud. Ches looked at me funny (he wasn’t watching it with me). I really liked the movie. And now I really want to watch P&P again. The Colin Firth one, of course. (Seriously, someone needs to just buy me the DVD already!! Could you guys let Ches know that it would be a perfect 13th anniversary gift. Our anniversary is coming up in just a few weeks… you don’t have much time!)

When you think of the greatest romantic couples in history or literature or whatever, Romeo and Juliet and Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett are two of the couples that often top the list. I guess this was my weekend of romance. I’ll take Darcy and Elizabeth over R&J any day. It just makes me happy. But when I need a good cry? I’ll watch that final death scene. I’m weird like that.