Modern Times (1936): Movies express desires, so it’s no shock their makers often build movies around their lovers, spouses or objects of infatuation. After falling for her at a party, Charlie Chaplin decided to make Paulette Goddard, then a bit player, into a major star by casting her as his lady friend in his middle finger to the mechanized world. Not that she was remotely his equal: Barely a comedian, she functions mostly as a prop—a pretty award for the ever-put-upon Little Tramp.
Boom! (1968): The films of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were at least as rocky as their marriage. After an inauspicious start (Cleopatra), they hit wild success (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), then its opposite: A hypnotically sluggish, garish take on a Tennessee Williams play no one ever liked, this Joseph Losey set-design porn has since been reclaimed by camp scientists like John Waters.
Time After Time (1979): Believe it or not, Mary Steenburgen was hitched to Malcolm McDowell before segueing to Ted Danson. If you want to see why, check out the fuck fumes emanating from this endearingly silly fantasy-thriller, in which McDowell’s H.G. Wells, having time traveled to modern-day San Francisco to pursue Jack the Ripper (natch), catches the eye of Steenburgen’s bank clerk. The chemistry is real: A year later, they were married.
Overboard (1987): Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn are among the more tolerable of Hollywood celebrities (they never married, for one). Indeed, they have only one inane vanity project together. Previous joint ventures (1968’s Walt Disney programmer The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band, and 1984’s mutilated Jonathan Demme pic Swing Shift) both preceded their coupledom.
Love Affair (1994): Annette Bening and Warren Beatty’s pricey remake of Leo McCarey’s 1939 romance: Well, at least two people enjoy it.
Going the Distance (2010): In which Justin Long coaxes Drew Barrymore to cuss like a sailor with fucking Tourettes. Good work.
In the cesspool of modern romantic comedy, a flawed but ultimately adequate film like Going the Distance feels like a masterpiece. A so-called chick flick that doesn’t hate women and won’t make you want to gouge your eyeballs out? Stop the presses!
Six Long-Running Film Franchises