Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Love Stories

Valentine's Day
Director: Garry Marshall
Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Jennifer Garner, Julia Roberts, Jamie Foxx, Anne Hathaway, Hector Elizondo, Shirley McClaine, and a million other people
Released: February 10, 2010

When I start watching a movie, the first thing I usually do is check to see how long it is and this one is a little over two hours. At first, I was surprised (and a little annoyed, ha!) because why would some romcom be over two hours long, but then I remembered that half of Hollywood is in this movie and there are a billion little storylines, so that quickly explained that. 

I feel like Garry Marshall watched Love, Actually (which would have come out 7 years prior) and wanted to do that except have it set in L.A on Valentine's Day. There's even a plot line that's sorta similar to one in Love, Actually, but I'll explain more when I get there. 

It's clear Garry picked up the phone to call many of his favorite people to work with: Julia Roberts from Pretty Woman and Runaway Bride, Anne Hathaway from The Princess Diaries, Hector Elizondo from pretty much everything he's directed, and Patrick Dempsey and Eric Dane from the one episode of Grey's Anatomy he directed. Just kidding. He never directed an episode of Grey's Anatomy, but I did have to double check to see if he did or not since two actors from that show are in this movie!  

As you can imagine, some of the storylines collide with each other. There are at least two, maybe three (hell, perhaps even four) storylines that could have easily been cut and it wouldn't have affected the movie at all, but I'll tell you about those later. 

It's Valentine's Day morning and Reed (Ashton Kutcher) has just proposed to his girlfriend, Morley (Jessica Alba) and she says yes. (By the way, I had to look up pretty much everyone's characters name because I only remembered a couple of their names in the movie!) Reed sells flowers and obviously this is a big day for his business and he's got his friend and co-worker, Alphonso (George Lopez) to help him on this big day. 

Reed is friends with Julia (Jennifer Garner) and she has recently started dating a cardiothoracic surgeon named Dr. Derek Sheperd, oops, I mean Dr. Harrison Copeland (Patrick Dempsey - actually, Dr. Shepard was a neurosurgeon, wasn't he?) Haha, I wonder if they call him Dr. McDreamy at his hospital? Julia is so in love with him and basically has hearts for eyes. Unfortunately, he can't spend the day with her because he has to go to San Francisco for something work related. Later, we'll see him call Julia from his car, telling her he's just gotten to the airport, but in actuality, he's pulling into the driveway of a nice house. My first thought was, OMG! He's married! and not five seconds later we see him take a ring out of his pocket and slide it onto his finger. What a jerk! 

Julia goes to see Reed and she's a little surprised that Morley said yes to his proposal, but is happy for him. When she tells him her new flame will be in San Francisco for the day (so she thinks!), he suggests that she go up there and surprise him. Boy, he's going to regret suggesting that when Dr. Copeland will stop by his flower shop in a few hours to buy two arrangement for his two ladies. Before he gives his credit card to Reed, he asks if he can be discreet about this. He agrees, but then when he recognizes his name on the card, he clarifies that Julia Fitzpatrick is his girlfriend and Pamela Copeland is his wife since she has the same last name as him. 

He's having a huge dilemma of whether he should tell Julia or not that her boyfriend is married. He asks Alphonso what he would do and Alphonso asks him what HE would do if the roles were reversed. Reed knows he needs to tell Julia and he tries to when he delivers the flowers from Harrison to her, but isn't able to. 

Unfortunately, Reed will get hit with his own dose of bad news when he comes home to find Morley packing a suitcase and tells him she is leaving him and can't marry him. I saw this coming a mile away because in an earlier scene he asks why she's not wearing her ring and she tells him she doesn't want people asking a bunch of questions since it's Valentine's Day and that they should keep their engagement secret for now. At the last minute, and I mean at the very last minute, he runs to the airport where Julia is waiting to board a plane. He tells her that Harrison is married, but she thinks this means he used to be married and is still being stubborn. 

We see that Julia did not get on the plane, but instead went to the hospital where Dr. Copeland works and asks a nurse if he's working tonight and she says no. She then asks if he's married and the woman confirms he is and he and his wife just celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary. An older nurse comes over to Julia and whispers to her what restaurant he'll be at tonight and what time. It just so happen that one of Julia's students' (she's an elementary school teacher) dad is a maitre'd at that restaurant (or maybe he owns the place, hell, I don't know), so she is able to pretend to be a waitress for Harrison and his wife. At first, he's not paying attention as he's looking at the menu and talking to his wife as Julia pours them water, but when she announces she'll be their waitress, he chokes on his water. She tells them one of their specials is called "the lying, stinking pig." The wife is not getting the clue and is amused by this special and asks how it's made and Julia goes into gruesome detail (and some fast thinking for being put on the spot; guess she got the training when she was a spy in the CIA, haha) about what the chef does to its scrotum and heart. The wife says she'll go with the salmon, but Harrison stutters that he's not hungry. Surely, the wife had some suspicion. Oh, well, I suppose if she did, she decided to wait until they got home before she went off on him. This scene reminded me of the one in Adventures in Baby-Sitting when Elisabeth Shue sees Bradley Whitford with some girl in a restaurant when he told her he couldn't go out because his sister was sick and when she goes in to confront him she overhears him say to the girl, "Girls like you only come around once in a lifetime" which is a line he told Elisabeth and she's like, "Or twice in the same night." 

Julia thanks her student's dad and picks up some carry out she's taking to a party and tells him to charge it to her "friend over there." He says he figured and tells her he also added some extra lobster tails and cheesecake, heh.

So now Reed's (one day) fiancee has left him and Julia's boyfriend is married. Guess who gets together? They find out they were meant for each other all along! How sweet! Okay, so that wraps up their storylines (for the most part), who's next? 

Like I said, Julia is an elementary school teacher (fourth or fifth grade) and one of her students is a boy named Edison. His grandparents are Edgar (Hector Elizondo) and Estelle (Shirley McClain). This is the storyline that (sort of) reminded me of Love, Actually when Liam Neeson's son tells him he's in love with a girl in his class. Edison tells his grandfather he wants to send flowers to his Valentine and we see him trying to order a bouquet of roses at Reed's shop even though he doesn't have enough money. I think we're supposed to think he has a crush on this girl in his class, Rani, an Indian girl who's also a good friend of his and they both play soccer together. Another one of their teammates calls her his girlfriend to Edison's face, but he denies it. But when Julia (Ms. Fitzpatrick to her students) is telling her students the history of Valentine's Day, he's the only one paying attention so I knew that he had a crush on his teacher. For some reason, his flowers aren't delivered to the school (probably because he didn't have enough money!), so he has to make it his mission to make sure his Valentine gets her flowers THAT day. He finds out from Rani that she has to work at her family's restaurant that night (and keep in mind this girl is ten) because they're hosting two parties: a wedding reception and an "I Hate Valentine's Day" party that Ms. Fitzpatrick will be attending because her friend Kara is hosting. Okay, let's put a pin in this story (there's not too much left to tell, but I need to introduce some other characters before I wrap it up. This movie's kind of a pain to try to summarize!) 

In a movie about love and Valentine's Day, we at least need one anti-Valentine's Day person and that is Kara (Jessica Biel) who hosts an annual "I Hate Valentine's Day" party. She is upset because nobody has RSVPed to her party, but don't worry, she ends up having a nice gathering. Julia is the first to arrive. At first she wasn't going to attend because she had planned to be in San Francisco surprising her boyfriend, but we all know how that turned out! There's a heart-shaped piñata and Julia takes a bat and just beats the crap out of it. Before she smashes the piñata, she twirls the bat around in her hand and it's very Sydney Bristow.

Kara is a publicist for an "aging" (he's 35) football player named Sean Jackson (Eric Dane) who's thinking about retiring because he wants more out of life. He wants to call a press conference and everyone thinks he's going to announce his retirement. His agent is played by Queen Latifah and she has one amusing moment where she's getting a massage and when it turns out that Sean's big announcement is that he's gay (but he's still going to continue to play), she looks up and says, "I knew it!" 

But let's back up (again) and introduce another character. Kelvin (Jamie Foxx) is a sports journalist, but his producer, Susan (Kathy Bates), wants him to do a lifestyle piece (because it's a slow sports day, but this was before Sean Jackson announced he was holding a press conference) and ask people on the street "what does Valentine's Day mean to you?" Kelvin isn't thrilled about this because he wants to be taken seriously as a sports journalist and he's not a fan of Valentine's Day. (Guess who he ends up with?) I did laugh at his reply about Valentine's Day not even being a real holiday because they don't get the day off. I totally agree with him. If you don't get time and a half for woking on a holiday it's not a real holiday! When he hears that Sean Jackson (I have no idea why I keep calling him by his first and last name, maybe because that's how they referred to him in the movie) is announcing a press conference, he goes to Kara's office to ask is he can ask Sean one camera on question. Kara is in her office, stuffing chocolate in her mouth, a little unhinged, and asks him if she's the only person who's alone on Valentine's Day and tells him how her best friend is candy and the only relationship she has is with her Blackberry. (Haha, this movie is so dated). Now I don't know if this is the first time these two have met, but it's super cringe and she breaks down and he's trying to comfort her. Anyway, he is able to get his question for Sean Jackson and he ends up coming to Kara's party (because he hates Valentine's Day too!). They share a kiss at the end of the movie and I guess they end up together. 

We get a storyline set on an airplane where U.S. army captain Kate (Julia Roberts) is sitting next to a well-dressed man named Holden (Bradley Cooper). They strike up a conversation and we learn that Kate is on a one-day leave. Holden tells her he thinks it's a romantic gesture what she's doing since she's taking a fourteen hour flight just to be home for one day, then turn around the next day and take another fourteen hour flight back and mentions the guys she's going to see is a lucky man. Okay, right away I knew she wasn't going home to see a husband or a boyfriend or any kind of romantic partner. I knew that Edison was her son and he was who she was going home to see. I knew this because when Edison is playing soccer we see him looking at the moms cheering on their kids and he looks really sad. I thought it was weird that she never corrected him and told him she had a son and was going home to see him. I guess it's because they wanted it to be a surprise for the audience. Well, you're not fooling me, Garry Marshall! It is a sweet moment when she comes home and hugs her son and I may or may not have had something in my eyes during that scene. We also find out that Holden is in a relationship with Sean Jackson. So I guess they were in a relationship, but it wasn't public since Sean wasn't officially out? 

Okay, let's go back to Edison for a second. For some reason, he has a baby-sitter even though he has two able-bodied grandparents who are able to take care of. Grace (Emma Roberts) is a high school senior who watches him after school. I would understand if the grandparents weren't home to watch him, but there's a scene of her at their house and she's talking to them. If the grandparents are home, why do they need a baby-sitter? Okay, this scene will come into play later so I get why it's there. 

Let's talk about Grace's (very cringey) storyline. That morning, her teacher asks her if she can help with a "test-prep group for the class" after school, but Grace tells her she has to baby-sit. When she asks if she can do it during lunch, she tells her she can't because she plans to have sex with her boyfriend for the first time and they're going to her house during lunch break because her parents will be at work. I for sure thought she was trying to get out of helping the teacher and just said that so the teacher would be uncomfortable (which she was!) and leave it alone, but no, Grace was being serious. She even offers to help her the next day with the study group. 

During lunch break, Grace's boyfriend, Alex (Carter Jenkins, the only person in the main cast I wasn't familiar with), gets to her house first (he knows where the key is hidden; under a doormat, with an obvious hiding place like that, they're probably going to get burglarized) and heads up to her room and covers her bed in rose petals and lights a bunch of candles. It's the most cliche thing ever. Also, isn't lunch break usually only half an hour? And they have to drive home, then back to school? This all just seems very rushed and not very special or romantic. Are they just doing this today because it's Valentine's Day? I guess. Alex is an inspiring musician and has brought his guitar and starts playing it and singing a cheesy song about her. He is completely naked (ready to go, I guess!) and the guitar is strategically placed around him. In a very predictable move, we see the front door open and in walks Grace's mom! I guess she had to come home form work to get something. She can hear the music upstairs and thinks Grace is home, so she opens the door to get quite the surprise. Alex also gets quite the surprise too and falls onto Grace's bed. We get a very awkward scene where he tells his girlfriend's mom the reason he is naked because he's rehearsing for "an experimental show". (Okay, but why is he "practicing" in Grace's room?) He stands up and steps on a thorn of a rose, then backs up and crashes into one of Grace's shelves, then he bumps heads with Grace's mom. You would think the mom would tell him to get dressed, close the door, then they could discuss what he was doing. Alex wraps his jacket around his wait and grabs his guitar case and runs out of the house completely naked, but he's covered up. He runs down the block and runs into Grace who is on her way home. She stops and lets him in the car and he tells her what just happened. Boy, she must have been mortified that her mom saw her boyfriend naked in her bedroom! 

So they decide to wait to have sex because reasons I don't even remember. Grace chats with Edgar and Estelle and asks them who's only been with one person and they tell her they are those people. Except lies! Because Estelle confesses to Edgar that she had an affair with his business partner many years ago. Damn, that's cold, Estelle! When he asks why she's telling him this now, she replies she wanted to tell him the truth and he tells her, "The truth makes everything else seem like a lie."

There are a couple storylines that could have been deleted from the movie. One of them is the relationship between Liz (Anne Hathaway) and Jason (Topher Grace - thank goodness I have the Wikipedia cast list up because I would not have remembered their character's names!). They recently started dating and go on a dinner date. They go to this super crowded restaurant where the tables are literally right next to each other and they're sitting shoulder to shoulder with the other patrons and are across from each other and have to talk loudly to be heard. The couple next to them are leaning across the table and making out and the other couple next to them is fighting. It doesn't seem very fun or intimate. One of the moments of dialogue I genuinely laughed at is when the waiter comes over and asks them, "Would you like the four-course Sweetheart's Menu or the eight-course Eternal Love?" and Jason replies, "Whoa slow down. Is there a one-course "only been dating
for two weeks but it looks promising option?" Yeah, that's pretty awkward, but I think his reply was pretty good. 

During their scenes together or when Liz is at work, she has to take calls because she makes extra money on the side as a phone sex operator. It's all very PG-13 dirty talk and she talks in accents, usually Russian or Southern. She seems to have the same two clients. During the dinner date, she has to excuse herself to take one of these calls and goes outside. Jason (he doesn't know what she does on the side) goes to find her and overhears her "talking dirty" (I say it in quotes because it's pretty tame) in a Southern accent to someone who he believes is her boyfriend. This guy is really dumb...any idiot would realize what she's doing. She admits she's a phone sex operator and when he asks why she didn't tell him she says it's because she's broke and has a $100,000 student loan and no insurance. So I guess because of shame? He's such a jerk and tells her "I'm out." But why? Because she's the a phone sex operator? Because she's broke? For some reason, after he tells her that, she asks if he's going to call her, but I guess this is so he can be snarky and reply, "I'd like to say yes, but I don't know if I can afford it." He does immediately apologize for saying that, but says this is all too much for him.

So I would say this is a storyline that could be deleted, but it does merge with the Edgar and Estelle storyline. Both couples are supposed to go to a movie night in the cemetery, but the guys end up going alone and they start chatting about their forlorn love lives. Edgar and Estelle go every year on Valentine's and this is the first time he's been there without Estelle. The movie they're showing is a 1958 movie Shirely McClaine was in called Hot Spell, so I guess Estelle is/was an actress, but I don't know if this is supposed to be Hot Spell or another movie because Shirley McClaine isn't playing herself. Anyway, Estelle comes to the screening and she and Edgar make up and kiss in front of a huge crowd of people and everyone claps. Also, Jason realizes he was being a jerk to Liz and they make up and get together. 

I would also say you could delete the Emma Robert and her boyfriend storyline, but it also connects to Edgar and Estelle. One storyline you could definitely delete and it wouldn't affect the movie is the Taylor Swift and Taylor Launter one. They play a dating high school couple and they're friends with Grace and Alex, but that's really only the connection they have with other characters in the movie. The Taylor Swift song "Today Was a Fairytale" is featured during the movie and at the end credits. I thought she specifically wrote it for the movie, but looking at Wikipedia (which I already had up!) she had already written it and offered it to be used in the movie. Taylor Swift has many, many amazing songs and not one of them. It's very bland and generic, much like this movie! 

The absolute best part of this film is the very, very end when they're showing the bloopers and the last blooper we see is Julia Roberts being driven home in a car and they go past Rodeo Drive and the driver asks her if she's ever been there and she replies she has and it was a "Big mistake, huge!" 

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