The Best Romantic Films and Chick Flicks of 2015
Romantic films are an interesting genre with Hollywood. On one side of things, they can be as goofy and charmingly over-the-top as any comedy out there, while conversely, they can also pry deep into tragedy and melodrama that rival the saddest of dramatic pieces. In this regard, the romance/chick flick category of film-making might prove the most versatile in terms of options.
In 2015, there were films that took the concept of love and stretched it to epic levels of sweeping tragedy, most notably Far From The Madding Crowd and Brooklyn. These are the kind of romance films that take their topic very seriously, aided by refined manner and scandalous whispers. Conversely, lighter fare like The Duff and Magic Mike XXL wear their goofiness on their sleeve, benefiting from clever cliche subversion to biting commentary on modern love. And for fans of the steamier aspects of romance, there was highly anticipated hit 50 Shades of Grey, which took erotic novels to the mainstream through glamour and a sweepingly seductive soundtrack. So whichever flavor suits your taste, 2015 had a delightful offering. Romance, chick flick, here are the highlights of last year.
Mistress America – Release Date: January 24th 2015
From acclaimed mumblecore director Noah Baumbach comes this delightful comedy about the experiences of college. Tracy (Lola Kirk), a lonely freshman in New York, is thrilled to have a visit from her soon-to-be stepsister Brooke (Greta Gerwig), who promptly turns her carefully organized life upside down. It’s a typical indie film premise, but Baumbach and acting muse Gerwig infuse a much welcome sense of zeal into the story, emphasized by the director’s trademark creative spirit and dark wit. The content of the film is more or less just an excuse to have Baumbach’s terrific screenplay peel back the layers of these fully developed characters, and the results are anything but disappointing. A must see for fans of the previously acclaimed Frances Ha (2012) and While We’re Young (2014), as Mistress America rounds out this little trio of soft spoken wit perfectly.
Fifty Shades of Grey- Release Date February 13th 2015
Wildly anticipated after the staggering success of E.L. James’ book series, Fifty Shades of Grey follows naive college student Anastasia “Ana” Steele (Dakota Johnson) as she interviews successful businessman Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). The two hit it off, and before long Ana finds herself in the sexual realm of Christian, where she succumbs to his every desire while fighting the emotional connection that has continued to grow between them, building to a decision that will change their lives forever. As a film, and a novel, Fifty Shades is as adored as it is hated, backed by an erotica story and acting that isn’t exactly top notch. The chemistry between Johnson and Dornan is virtually nonexistent, rendering any scenes of intensity a bit bland in its execution. But fans will love it, and eagerly anticipate the next two films in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
The Duff – Release Date February 20th 2015
Bianca Piper has the surprise of her high school life when an investigation reveals that she has been labeled THE DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) of her more popular friends. As a result, she puts aside the potential distraction of her crush Toby and befriends high school jock Wesley to help her reinvent herself before senior year. In the process, Bianca gains enough pull to overthrow the popular girls and make sure they know what it feels like to be THE DUFF of the group. The film will undeniably draw comparisons to the cult classic Mean Girls (2004), and while it’s nowhere near as memorable, The Duff is a fun high school movie that will go down fondly for some and completely forgettable for others. As far as teenage date movies, you couldn’t have done much better than this in 2015.
6 Years – Release Date: March 14th 2015
Bound by a seemingly ideal love, Melanie Clark (Taissa Farmiga) and Dan Mercer (Ben Rosenfield) begin to split apart when surprising opportunities and and unexpected turns take them further away from the idyllic life they always envisioned and towards a violent and volatile outcome. Written and directed by Hannah Fidell (A Teacher, The Gathering Squall), 6 Years is a film that takes a long, hard look at the unexpected direction that life can take us all in. That Melanie and Dan begin as the ideal relationship that everyone around them envies, is a reality that is often far too unpleasant to address head on, but Fidell, aided by her two lead performers, do just that in a sincerely affecting drama. This a film that stands out from the other entries on this list for how honestly it looks at love in the modern age.
The Age of Adaline – Release Date: April 24th 2015
Throwing fantasy and period romance into a blender of Blake Lively, Age of Adaline follows its titular character (Lively) as she is rendered ageless after a car accident. Forced to watch those she loves grow and eventually die, Adaline has sworn off of personal connection, having found them far too painful to bare. But when she meets Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman) and the two fall in love, her singular dilemma is reevaluated against a chance for true happiness. Lively isn’t the most stunning actress (aside from her looks), and the film puts plenty of emotional weight on her ill-fitted shoulders, resulting in a film that feels more Lifetime Channel than theatrical. It helps to have old vets like Ellen Burstyn and Harrison Ford in the mix, but it can’t save The Age of Adaline from being nothing more than a charming exercise in forgettable cinema.
Far From The Madding Crowd – Release Date: May 22nd 2015
As one of the many screen adaptations of Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel. It tells the story of headstrong, independent Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan), whose free spirit attracts three radically different men: recklessly handsome sergeant Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge), sheep farmer Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), and mature bachelor William Boldwood (Michael Sheen). Faced with the difficult choice of choosing which man to marry, Bathsheba explores the relationships of each to discover what it truly means to be in love. This is romance in all caps, highlighted by sweeping landscape imagery and refined manner that isn’t found in most modern love stories. The cast is appropriately uptight and square, leaving the emotional punch a bit tight opposite such a restricting atmosphere. Regardless, this timeless story will find a special place in the hearts of many moviegoers.
Paper Towns – Release Date: June 18th 2015
Adapted from the best selling author of The Fault in Our Stars, this film follows the plight of gawky teenager Quentin (Nat Wolff) as he has the night of his life with eternal crush Margo (Cara Delevingne). But things turn suspicious when she disappears the next day, leaving behind a trail of clues that Quentin and his quick-witted friends must piece together in an effort to find the potential love of his life. As a film, Paper Towns is a fun bit of teen adventure, punctuated by the same wry detail that made Fault in our Stars such a treat, while benefiting from the charm of first time star Delevingne. She does decently at conveying the mystique of her initially page bound character, and the rest of the cast is solid in a story that screams middle school date movie.
Magic Mike XXL – Release Date: June 25th 2015
Three years after the events of the original Magic Mike, male stripper Mike (Channing Tatum) has retired at the top of his game and is now living an ordinary life. But when the other members of The Kings of Tampa decide to hit the road for an international competition, Mike, Ken (Matt Bomer), Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), Tarzan (Kevin Nash), and Tito (Adam Rodriguez) head to Myrtle Beach for one last blow-out appearance. Gregory Jacobs, who was the assistant director to Steven Soderbergh for the first film, takes over directorial duties, and does a decent job capturing the goofy machismo of Mike and his crew of fellas. But while the first film surprised with its solid story and clever subversion of the dumb sounding premise, XXL feels more comfortable living up to the blase expectations offered by an obligatory sequel.
Brooklyn – Release Date: November 4th 2015
Ellis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) follows in her sister’s footsteps and leaves Ireland for the United States in the 1950’s. Once there, she gets a job at a department store and eventually falls in love with a young Italian man named Tony (Emory Cohen). But when news from home arrives urgently, Ellis must return to Ireland and leave her happy life for her family. Once there, she marries Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson) and her two worlds of romance collide in ways that could destroy both. Based on Colm Toibin’s novel of the same name, Brooklyn is a film that highlights the issues of romance and soulmates with startling clarity, aided by John Crowley’s swooing direction and Nick Hornby’s delicate script. The lead trio of actors are beautifully portrayed, particularly Ronan, who copped an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. Sincere without being preachy, Best Picture nominee Brooklyn is a seductive spell.
Carol – Release Date: November 20th 2015
Another 1950’s tale of New York love, Carol’s titular character (Cate Blanchett) is a hardened mother going through an embarrassing divorce. In the midst of this difficult time, she befriends young photographer Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), who ignites a spark of passion in the long dormant Carol, leading to an affair that could ruin the lives of both involved. Based on the novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, the film is yet another expansive character study of forbidden lesbian love in a time when that sort of thing was taboo in society. Blanchett, Rooney and divorced husband Kyle Chandler are all exceptional in their respective roles, netting Oscar nominees for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. Audiences have seen stories like this before, namely Brokeback Mountain (2006), but director Todd Haynes expertly crafts an old school experience around a theme that is inherently exclusive to modern audiences. Well worth the hype.