Valentine’s Day – Movie Review
Movie Review by Stacey Tuttle
“Love’s the only shocking act left on the planet.” It’s an interesting statement made in Valentine’s Day. One, I believe, that hits on far greater truth in reality than what is shown in the movie. Rather than attempt to show how shocking (in a good way) love can be, the film instead seems to simply chronicle a variety of Valentine’s Day experiences.
Here’s a summary of the main relationships/experiences:
- Two teens who plan to have sex for the first time on Valentine’s Day with the hopes it will create a strong enough bond between them to survive the coming separation in college.
- The “Taylors” (Taylor Laudner, Taylor Swift) –two ridiculously silly and obnoxious teens whose immature attraction shows no depth whatsoever. (These do rather seem to be mocked in the film and not taken as seriously as the other story lines.)
- A 20-something couple who has been dating about two weeks (Topher Grace and Anne Hathaway). He thinks he has found “the one” until he discovers she moonlights as a phone sex operator. (We will revisit this later.)
- Happily married Senior citizens about to renew their vows. But, the wife suddenly confesses to having an affair years ago.
- A military woman trying to get home to spend a few short hours with her son (whose father is absent).
- Professional football player who finally comes out of the closet and is reunited with his gay lover.
- Bitter young woman (Jessica Biel) who hates Valentines Day so much she plans an annual party to celebrate hating Valentine’s Day (though she of course finds love on Valentine’s Day after all).
- A girl (Jennifer Garner) who discovers (on Valentine’s Day) that her “perfect” doctor boyfriend has a wife and kids…but before the day is out she finds true love in her best friend (Ashton Kutcher), so all is not lost.
- And similarly, Ashton Kutcher plays a character who is in love and proposes to his obviously disinterested girlfriend that morning, gets dumped by her in the afternoon and by nighttime has discovered that he is truly in love with his best friend instead (Jennifer Garner’s character, who, conveniently, just dumped her schmuck boyfriend and is available for immediate rematch).
I can appreciate the broad scope and many shades and depths of love portrayed. However, I think the utter lack of any sort of value scale bothers me. Are some of the portrayed loves better, deeper truer, more admirable than the others? Or all they all simply different, but equally valuable examples of love? Is a mother’s love for her son on equal footing and/or depth with the highschoolers in the puppy love stage? We may not make that particular association, but the way the film juxtaposes some of the key relationships at the end when the stars align and all the right couples finally come together cannot help but to insinuate that sense of equality among other relationships, such as the gay men with the mother and her son or the senior citizens who have been married 40-50 years with the couple dating two weeks.
As for the gay couple, it’s a carefully hidden detail until the very end that either man is gay. To be fair, I’m certain that was partly for surprise effect, but I also suspect it was largely for the sake of manipulating/fostering feelings of sympathy and compassion among the more conservative members of the audience. All along the football player is lamenting that his career has hindered him in his desire to have a “family”. And we feel so deeply for this charming, kind, considerate man on the plane is still so wounded from a painful break up. We are so sympathetic towards these two men, so hopeful they will find love, that when the secret is out and we discover the love they are longing for is for each other, we are more inclined suspend our reservations about their gay lifestyle and simply feel relief that their situation is happily resolved. In fact, to be sure we are sympathetic to their gay love, this couple is paired with the military woman (Julia Roberts) who is flying home from duty to spend a few short hours with her Valentine. However, just as the gay couple’s love interest is held secret till the very end, this woman’s love interest is held secret as well. In the wrapping up of love stories, two secrets are unveiled which cements the comparison of these two Valentines Day scenarios. One is that the two men were in love with each other, the other is that the military woman isn’t going home to a lover, she’s going home to her young son.
Another juxtaposition which was troublesome was the story line of the phone sex solicitor (Hathaway) and her new boyfriend paired against the senior citizen couple. Upon learning his girlfriend is a phone sex solicitor, Topher Grace’s character, shocked and disturbed, immediately leaves. He by chance ends up visiting with the elderly gentleman who has just learned that his wife was unfaithful some 30 years ago (give or take). He then witnesses this precious moment as the couple confesses, forgives and makes up. He hears them saying things along the lines of, “When you love someone, you have to love them for all that they are.” And he decides he should do the same for his new girlfriend.
Here’s the rub: in regards to her job, the conclusion of the matter is that it’s just a job. It’s simply a more lucrative way to make the money she so desperately needs. This job has nothing to do with who she is or her character, etc. In fact, we are basically told that he was wrong to make any judgment on either her character or her actions. He was wrong to have certain standards or ideas about what kinds of professions might not be acceptable for the kind of woman he would want to marry.
Frankly, the comparison of the two relationships is false. In the case of the senior citizens, the wife is repentant. In fact, she is so grieved by her past she cannot conceal it any longer. She risks all to come clean and confess to her husband. And she has repented of her actions such that they have not been repeated. In the case of the young couple however, Hathaway’s character has no remorse or repentance for her actions. Why should she repent? She hasn’t done anything wrong, according to the movie. So, it’s her boyfriend who does all the repenting, repenting for judging her for having phone sex as a career (note that phone sex solicitation is not seen as infidelity to her boyfriend). So I wondered as I watched him apologize if the movie makers would feel that it was ever OK to have standards or “deal breakers” in a relationship? I mean, if a guy can’t say that it’s a deal breaker if a girl sells phone sex because it’s good money, then can he say the deal’s off if he finds out she sells herself? Or is that being too judgmental too? And what about when I say a person’s religion is a deal breaker for me? Is that considered wrong and judgmental, too? But I digress.
As for the movie’s take on sex, the big lesson is to simply do what feels good when it feels “right”. While the teens decide not to “rush” into it, there is not one thought of waiting for marriage to be found. In fact, other than the high school kids, not a single couple abstains (and the high schoolers were planning to have sex, except their plans were interrupted).
So, back to the beginning statement: “Love is the only shocking act left on the planet.” What does the Bible say? Our greatest example of love is Christ’s love – Jesus who loved the world and everyone in it so much that he died and excruciating death for them. We are told that no one could have a greater love than to lay his life down for his friends (John 15:13). If that is the greatest kind of love, it follows that an example of love like that would be the most shocking act on our planet. And not only shocking, but rare.
In all the little “love stories” in Valentine’s Day, how many show this kind of love? Frankly, I would have gladly sacrificed some of the variety of romantic vignettes for some death and a statement of value about a better, truer kind of love.
- Do you think all the “loves” presented are equal in the kind, quality, value of the love they represent?
- Do you think sex should be for marriage or just for someone special when it feels right?
- Is the Bible relevant or outdated on the subject of sex, in your opinion?
- Do you see anything wrong with the phone sex job, or is it just a job (i.e. equal to working in a bank or day care) and a good way to make extra money? Was Topher Grace’s character right or wrong in his initial action and judgment?
- Do you know anyone who loves sacrificially in the way that Christ did?
- Do you think relationships would be more smoothly if people could love as Christ commanded?