The Romantics: Exploring the depths of love and friendship

Galt Niderhoffer’s The Romantics premiered in Sundance last year and was released in US theaters in September, but I don’t think it was shown in the Philippines at all. Too bad, Anna Pacquin fans would have liked to see her on screen again playing another character than the fierce Sookie Stackhouse in True Blood.

The Romantics is based on a novel with the same title written by the film’s director and screenwriter Niederhoffer. So audiences who loved the book would be sure that the writer’s vision and its interpretation on screen would be spot on. Personally, I liked the trailer of the movie more than the movie itself. Not having read the book, the trailer was presented more simply. A group of college friends, known as The Romantics for their incestuous dating history, head to the hometown of their golden girl Lila Hayes (Pacquin), who is set to marry another one their own, Tom (Josh Duhamel), who dated maid of honor Laura (Katie Holmes) for five years before getting involved with Lila. The events all take place the day before the wedding until the wedding day itself and reveals the complexity of the characters and the friendships they have formed.

Viewers who expect The Romantics to be a romantic comedy would be sorely disappointed. Neither is it a film about friendship because half the time, I was wondering why the characters would do the things that they do if they really loved each other like they claimed. The dialog was compelling, and made reference to literary classics (They were lit majors in college) in their intellectual debate about love, and describing their complicated feelings for each other. While listening to the dialog, I felt like it was better suited for books where readers would be able to savor and digest it for hours (because, really, they were good) For the movie though, keeping it simple would have been better as it would have communicated to the audiences more.The chemistry between Tom and Laura was very strong though and that would have served as an indication of what his feelings were stronger for.

The Romantics + J Crew

What I found problematic with the film was that it made me question the sort of friendship that the characters had. 1. Why would Lila, who was very competitive in college with Laura, and know that she had feelings for Tom, ask her to be the maid of honor if not to rub it in her face that she won? 2. If Laura was really good friends with Lila, whom she said she treated like a sister, why did she not tell her before the party that she and Tom last saw each other before the proposal and had unfinished business instead of waiting until the last minute and airing her objections? 3. Why would Lila insist on the wedding when it was obvious that she was not in love with Tom (well, it didn’t come through like she did)? 4. And why was there no guilt when the other friends switched partners and attempted to cheat on each other?

Wow, this film is twisted on so many levels. However, credit goes to Niederhoffer for making sure that all the characters had their moments and uncovering various facets of their character in different scenes throughout the movie. While the film was not lengthy, viewers would be equal parts angry and sympathetic to the controlling Lila, as well as with Laura, whose character is admirable and pitiful at the same time. And Tom, leave us not forget the “catch” that is Tom, whom the women were fighting over, who is torn from being with the woman whom he truly loves and the woman he is marrying because she is safe. Makes you want to clock him one despite his hotness, huh?

What I liked about the film is that the characters are all flawed, but they are relatable. The scoring deserves a shoutout for being equal parts whimsical and offbeat which strengthens the moods in the scenes. Niderhoffer uses this story to illustrate how imperfections define people, and how friends don’t judge and accept blindly and unconditionally for the most part. The movie makes viewers take a look at themselves and their own lovelives and friendships, and thank their lucky stars that they are not part of this rowdy but lovable group, whose drama could rival Days of Our Lives. The film had a hanging ending, and leaves audiences to conclude who Tom would eventually end up, but if he didn’t end up with anybody (both women are too good for him, in my opinion), it would still be okay.