Continuing our countdown from Part I or four posts...
(#8) A Walk to Remember (2002)
If you’re like me, you cringe at the thought of seeing a movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel. The plot line is typically as punishing as it predictable: boy meets girl; boy and girl fall in love despite their differences; boy and girl overcome opposition from friends or family; girl tells boy she is fatally ill; boy and girl treasure every moment until girl’s untimely end; boy goes off into the sunset, dolefully energized by memories that will fuel him for the rest of his life. Many if not most critics disdainfully view this formula as emotionally manipulative, and they’ll get no argument from me. On top of that, this film follows the formula exactly. And it has other strikes against it. The directing is merely workmanlike. And Shane West gives us an absolutely underwhelming performance as the male lead. It’s not his fault. Putting West in this role was one of the worst casting blunders of the new century. So how can this movie possibly be on the list? Well the answer is Mandy Moore, starring as the female lead. She gives us a virtuoso performance. In fact, her performance in this film is so many light years beyond anything she has done before or since that it makes you wonder if she has a slimmer, more talented twin sister that starred in this film and made it a memorable viewing experience. Credit must also be given to a screenplay that considerably upgraded the original Nicholas Sparks story.
(#7) Sense and Sensibility (1995). Spectacularly well cast and acted, and featuring two classic stories of frustrated love, this is one that begs to be on any top ten list. And the superb acting extends beyond the stars to some of the supporting roles. Alan Rickman makes the Colonel Brandon role his own. And Greg Wise gives us an excellent performance as the villainous Willoughby.
(#6) Secret Admirer (1985). Here’s one you won’t find on any of the IMDb lists. This is a lighthearted teen love story whose plot has a secret admirer letter getting misplaced to cause an avalanche of unintended consequences, most of them humorous. I think the reason I like this movie so much, why I have seen it at least a dozen times over the years, is its balance. It’s a great comedy. The teen supporting actors are extremely well cast, and they do a terrific job of generating laughs. The parents are well cast too, and their scenes are even funnier. I got a cramp in my stomach the first time I saw the bridge party fight scene. Look for it; it’s truly hilarious.
But the plot also converges into a good love story. The ending is satisfying because it grows out of a tender, then frustrating tale of unrequited love, love strong enough to offer sacrifices. This is a story of teens growing and learning, finding themselves, and discovering that it can actually be perverse to get what you want. You’ll laugh your way to the end, but you’ll be touched by the closing sequence.