In the past two weeks I watched three films that adroitly explore postmodern love: Away We Go, Paper Heart, and 500 Days Of Summer. This trio of spry adventures is as heartwarming as it is genre shattering. Flimsy romantic comedies have finally met their match. 500 Days Of Summer pitches itself as a “romantic-comedy-drama,” Paper Heart says it’s a “hybrid documentary,” and Away We Go claims to be a “comedy-drama.” What used to revolve around moonlit evenings and closed mouth kisses has evolved into multiethnic couplings, complex scenarios…and hot feminists. Away We Go plunges through a biracial couple’s struggle to define their thirty-something lives amidst an unplanned pregnancy. They travel to Phoenix, Tucson, Madison, Montreal, and Miami in an effort to create an idyllic new life, only to learn that their unglamorous real home and real life are imperfectly perfect. Despite her boyfriend’s wishes, the self-empowered girlfriend has no desire to get married but pledges a lifetime of teetering and unpredictable devotion.
The multiethnic leading lady in Paper Heart also travels across the country on a self-awareness journey about the existence of love. Driven by her desire to define it and determine if she’s capable of recognizing it, she falls in it. She’s awkward, inventive, and hilariously endearing (not to mention an incredibly talented singer-songwriter). Her clumsiness quietly becomes the film’s grace, and her interviewees of all ages and backgrounds unanimously establish that love is real. And scary. And euphoric.
While 500 Days Of Summer doesn’t involve cross-country traveling, it traverses substantial ground about love and the lack thereof. This story that “is not a love story” follows a young man who falls in love with a free-spirited independent woman who doesn’t want to be in love. He falls in love with her anyway, ignores her repeated reminders, and nearly becomes paralyzed by her un-love of him. Through clever techniques like a throwback dance sequence, film noir spoof, and split screens of “expectations” and “reality,” he realizes that you can’t be a lover if you don’t have a love-ee.