Okay, so it's just about Valentine's Day... and that means it's time to wax nostalgic about one of my favorite romantic movies.
Sure, it's from 1999. Sure, the wardrobe is rough at best. Sure, there's no nudity. Nonetheless, I find it quirky and warm and delightful, and it's what I'll be curling up with on February 14th.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all about contemporary “romcoms” featuring A-list stars in minimal clothing: Sandra Bullock on one knee in front of Ryan Reynolds, Katherine Heigl showing off hideous bridesmaid dresses, JT’s tush all up in Mila Kunis’s business— I’m there. But, if I’m looking for something that incites nostalgia for pre-technology romance and some weathered good looks, Runaway Bride is my pick.
I assume many people haven’t heard of this movie, haven’t watch it, or have no desire to see it again. I get it, there’s a subdued-ness about it, it’s not flashy or in your face or particularly exciting. But I do think it’s worthy of appreciation on a day dedicated to romance, even if — gasp! —there’s no sex.
Runaway Bride, where Julia Roberts plays Maggie Carpenter, a cheeky small-town woman with a habit of leaving men at the altar — even if she has to flee via dirt bike, horse, or FedEx truck. Richard Gere plays the role of Ike Graham, a pompous NYC newspaper columnist who exaggerates an article about Maggie in a moment of deadline-induced panic, and is subsequently fired by his boss/ex-wife. Seeking vengeance, Ike travels to Maggie’s rural Maryland hometown to “interview” her and fiancee #4, in hopes of writing a career-redeeming article. As you might assume, everyone gets more than they bargained for.
Here’s 10 Reasons why this movie is my go-to Valentine’s Day pick:
1. Julia Roberts.
2. Richard Gere.
3. Obviously my love for this movie stems from my own personal experience with it. It’s a sentimental thing for me. My mom used to play it when I was a kid and it was one of the only movies we had on VHS. I used to tingle with excitement every time I heard the music from the opening credits playing (more on that later), and even years later when I see the movie poster or sit down to watch it again, I’m filled with comfort and nostalgia both for the pre-technological romance of late 90s romance, and of my own childhood.
4. Again. It’s Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. Is it even possible to not love them?? Anything the Pretty Woman duo does together is perfection in my book. They’re on-screen chemistry is visceral and even 9 years older than the infamous Edward and Vivian, the two are looking fiiiine. (And if it helps, Gary Marshall directed both, so obviously he knew what he was doing.)
5. From the film's setting to the characters professions to supporting roles, this movie is anything but stereotypical. It’s refreshing to put this on and not see the same story that’s been played out a million times. Sure, Maggie has 3 ex-grooms she’s run away from, which has been done in some variation again and again, but, I mean, come on… a mechanic, a catholic priest, and an entomologist? I’m here for that. Rather than some swanky bar or hipster apartment, we get run-ins at Maggie’s hardware store, the local bakery and salon, and unannounced visits in each other’s homes, and… a pre-wedding luau in a barn? Yes, please.
6. Runaway Bride also has a stellar supporting cast, including the quirky, salon-owner Peggy “Not The Ice Skater” Fleming (Joan Cusack) as Maggie's Best friend, and slick GQ photographer Fisher (Hector Elizondo) who play’s Ike’s ex-wife’s new husband and, somehow, his friend. With a cast of small-town characters including Maggie’s grooms and her family, as well as some cold New Yorkers (the recurring sidewalk t-shirt salesman, for example), the secondary roles are truly the hidden gems of this film.
7. The lack of tech in this movie adds to it’s 90s feel-good vibes for me — the only screens we really see are black NY flip-phones, Ike scribbles article ideas on bar napkins, and the the two main characters begin their communication through columns printed in a major newspaper. Instead of bar-hopping or texting we get night walks through snake-infested fields, and stealing cassette tapes from hotel rooms. These authentic interactions are refreshing and add a sense of closeness to their burgeoning romance. Instead of sub-tweeting each other or posting jealousy-inducing Facebook posts, we get arguments in a field lit with tiki torches and gifting running sneakers as a proclamation of love. It’s old, but it feels new.
8. One of the reasons why I truly love this movie is the script — the dry one-liners that hit my funnybone just right. Some faves:
9. The soundtrack in this movie is PHENOMENAL — the highlights for me being “Maneater” by Hall & Oates , “Ready to Run” and “You Can’t Hurry Love” by the Dixie Chicks. Okay, yeah, there are a few montages in this movie, I’ll admit. But how can you not break out in genuine glee when you see Julia Roberts galloping across a field on horseback, wedding gown flying in the wind, with U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” playing in the background? Answer: You can’t.
10. If we want to get real, the thing that I really appreciate about this film is the way it ends. Yes, it follows the traditional romcom trope of a big catastrophe before the grand reunion, as well as what script-consultant and screenwriting expert Pilar Alessandra once defined on her podcast as the “I hate you, but I love you” romcom. However, I still think it has some feminist redeeming qualities. If we wanted to get truly vomit-inducing romantic, Maggie would have succumbed to her love of Ike and let a marriage between the two of them save her from being “profoundly and irreversibly screwed up.” But [SPOILER ALERT] she doesn’t. Despite the love between them, Maggie takes time for herself, figures out what kind of eggs she likes when not in a relationship, follows and succeeds at her professional dreams, and discovers within herself why she hasn’t been able to make it down the aisle. And only then, once she has stood on her own two feet and gained self-awareness and independence, can she offer herself to Ike.
Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!
You can watch the trailer for Runaway Bride here.