Suggestions For Forgotten Love Films

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Every once in a while, writer Mark Jordan Legan brings us his suggestions for timely but underrated movies and just in time for Valentine's Day.


Back now with Day to Day, Valentine's Day is this Saturday. Maybe you're planning a romantic evening at home to save a little money, but you don't want to watch "Moonstruck" or "When Harry Met Sally" or "The Notebook" again. So, we asked writer Mark Jordan Legan to suggest some underrated romantic movies.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN: Our first film is a romantic comedy from 1988, "Crossing Delancey." Amy Irving stars as a New York City girl who just can't find Mr. Right, so her grandmother arranges for her to meet with a marriage broker.

(Soundbite of movie "Crossing Delancey")

Ms. REIZL BOZYK: (As Bubbie Kantor) First you'll listen; then you'll talk.

Ms. SYLVIA MILES: (As Hannah Mandelbaum) Very nice, very nice girl. She lives by her parents?

Ms. BOZYK: (As Bubbie Kantor) Naaaaah, they live in Florida with Red Buttons. All the social security checks under one roof - you can have it.

Ms. MILES: (As Hannah Mandelbaum) So, Isabella, you got your own apartment?

Ms. BOZYK: (As Bubbie Kantor) Naaaaah, she lives alone in a room like a dog.

LEGAN: Amy Irving's character, Isabelle, works in publishing and has a crush on a dashing, broody novelist, but Grandma and the marriage broker arrange for her to meet a nice guy, Sam, who runs the family pickle business. Sam is played by a terrific character actor Peter Riegert, and the film does a great job showing that sometimes you have to give people a chance.

(Soundbite of movie "Crossing Delancey")

Mr. PETER RIEGERT: (As Sam Posner) Then, one day, Mrs. Mandelbaum comes by the store and does her usual spiel, shows me her pictures, tells her lies. This one's 18, a scholar. This one's 22, a beauty.

(Soundbite of love)

Mr. RIEGERT: (As Sam Posner) I'm a bachelor. She can't help herself.

Ms. AMY IRVING (As Isabelle) Wait a minute, you mean you didn't hire her?

Mr. RIEGERT: (As Sam Posner) No. But on this particular day, she pulled this from her bag.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. IRVING: (As Isabelle) No.

Mr. RIEGERT: (As Sam Posner) And I said, yes, Mrs. Mandelbaum, this one I'll meet.

LEGAN: Amy Irving thinks she wants the glamorous novelist and tries passing off Sam to a desperate girlfriend.

(Soundbite of movie "Crossing Delancey")

Ms. IRVING: (As Isabelle) Maybe I could be handling this better...

Mr. RIEGERT: (As Sam Posner) Handling what? What are you handling, me?

Ms. IRVING: (As Isabelle) I don't blame you for being annoyed.

Mr. RIEGERT: (As Sam Posner) You come to my stand. You invite me out to dinner. You set me up with your girlfriend. You get your bubby to drag me over here. A guy can get a little tired of this routine.

Ms. IRVING: (As Isabelle) I did not...

Mr. RIEGERT: (As Sam Posner) What's the problem here? You think it's so small, my world? You think it's so provincial? You think it defines me? Is that it?

Ms. IRVING: (As Isabelle) No. No, I don't.

(Soundbite of beep)

Ms. IRVING: (As Isabelle) I feel like I keep apologizing to you, like I can't get it right. Sam, I want to get it right.

LEGAN: "Crossing Delancey" does get it right, a nice, simple film about the nice, simple things in life. The next romantic treat on our list is from 2005, "Sweet Land." This gem of a movie takes place back in 1920 and tells the story of a mail-order bride who comes to rural Minnesota to marry a Norwegian farmer. But when it's discovered she's not Norwegian but German, the anti-German feelings right after World War I cause the couple nothing but problems.

(Soundbite of movie "Sweet Land")

Mr. TIM GUINEE: (As Young Olaf) Can we see the judge?

Ms. ELIZABETH REASER: (As Young Inge) Judge?

Mr. ALAN CUMMING: (As Young Frandsen) She'll have to take a literacy test, and for that, she'll need to know English. Was that Norwegian she was speaking?

Mr. GUINEE: (As Young Olaf) She is German.

Mr. CUMMING: (As Young Frandsen) German?

LEGAN: "Sweet Land" is filled with wonderful performances and captures the small-mindedness of certain rural communities and especially the wrath of the town minister.

(Soundbite of movie "Sweet Land")

Mr. JOHN HEARD: (As Minister Sorrensen) You're dancing together? You're living together? God only knows what else. Your Germaness - it's such a disruption to my community. And your Germaness, it's makes coffee that is too black.

LEGAN: The slow build of the powerful attraction between the mail-order bride, Inge, and the farmer, Olaf, is handled beautifully, and their growing love for each other allows them to stand up for themselves.

(Soundbite of movie "Sweet Land")

Mr. HEARD: (As Minister Sorrensen) I'm sorry.

Mr. GUINEE: (As Young Olaf) This is her place now.

Mr. HEARD: (As Minister Sorrensen) How can it be?

Ms. REASER: (As Young Inge) You can let it be.

Mr. HEARD: (As Minister Sorrensen) You don't have the papers.

Ms. REASER: (As Young Inge) Now, I'm married. I'm citizenship. In my heart, I believe.

Mr. HEARD: (As Minister Sorrensen) But that's not enough, Inge, in your heart to believe. It has to be real.

Ms. REASER: (As Young Inge) You believes God?

LEGAN: And we close with a personal favorite of mine from the late, great writer/director Anthony Minghella, who did everything from the "English Patient" to "The Talented Mr. Ripley." Here is a powerful film about love and lost and finding the strength to move on in 1990's "Truly Madly Deeply." It features a remarkable performance from British actress Juliet Stevenson as a woman who can't stop grieving after her boyfriend, played by Alan Rickman, suddenly dies.

(Soundbite of movie "Truly Madly Deeply")

Ms. JULIET STEVENSON: (As Nina) (Shouting, Crying) It's anger, isn't it? It's rage! It's rage! I get so angry with other people, people in love, or out of love, or wasted love! And women with children, growing children, fertile! But most of all, I'm so angry with him! I'm so angry with him! I can't forgive him for not being here! I can't!

LEGAN: This film came out before the hugely popular Hollywood hit "Ghost," and it offers a much more emotional and cerebral take on some of the same themes. Rickman comes back from the other side to try and help his love let go.

(Soundbite of movie "Truly Madly Deeply")

Ms. STEVENSON: (As Nina) Actually dying, what's it like?

Mr. ALAN RICKMAN: (As Jamie) Time to rot is a general anesthetic I didn't like.

(Soundbite of love)

Ms. STEVENSON: (As Nina) No. I'm serious.

Mr. RICKMAN: (As Jamie) So am I. It's like standing behind a glass wall while everybody else got on with missing me. It didn't hurt. You know I'm really sensitive to pain, but it really didn't hurt.

LEGAN: Minghella totally captures what real couples are like, all the things that can drive you crazy and all the things that you can adore.

(Soundbite of movie "Truly Madly Deeply")

Ms. STEVENSON: (As Nina) I love you.

Mr. RICKMAN: (As Jamie) I love you.

Ms. STEVENSON: (As Nina) I really love you.

Mr. RICKMAN: (As Jamie) I really, truly love you.

Ms. STEVENSON: (As Nina) I really, truly, madly love you.

Mr. RICKMAN: (As Jamie) I really, truly, madly, deeply love you.

Ms. STEVENSON: (As Nina) I really, truly, madly, deeply, passionately love you.

Mr. RICKMAN: (As Jamie) I really, truly, madly, deeply, passionately, remarkably love you.

Ms. STEVENSON: (As Nina) And I really, truly, madly, deeply, passionately, remarkably, um...

(Soundbite of love)

Mr. RICKMAN: (As Jamie) Mm, mm, mm, mm, mm...

Ms. STEVENSON: (As Nina) Um, mm, mm, deliciously love you.

Mr. RICKMAN: (As Jamie) I really, truly, madly, passionately, remarkably, deliciously, juicily love you.

(Soundbite of love)

Ms. STEVENSON: (As Nina) Deeply.

(Shouting) Deeply! You passed on deeply, which was your word, which means that you couldn't have meant it! So, you're a fraud, that's...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. STEVENSON: (As Nina) Ah, you're probably a figment of my imagination.

LEGAN: So, we hope you'll be able to enjoy some of these romantic goodies. They might make you laugh, make you cry, and unlike a box of candy, we can guarantee they are all fat free. Happy Valentine's Day.

BRAND: Mark Jordan Legan is a happily married writer living in Los Angeles.

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: Day to Day is a production of NPR News, with contributions from I'm Madeleine Brand.

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