Love has always been difficult. One need only crack the spine of a Jane Austen novel to know that it ain’t no picnic. And as Rosanne Rosannadanna (Gilda Radner’s SNL character, for those of you woefully out of date on your 1970s late-night comedy references) said, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another.” No matter what we do, love always has a disproportionate probability of failing.
Or at least that’s what Hollywood seems to think. With a slew of movies detailing just how frustratingly awful love can be with the invention of smart phones, it’s hard to believe anything else.
Going as far back as the 90s with movies like “You’ve Got Mail,” Hollywood appears to be completely enamored with the idea that love and technology can hardly coexist peacefully. Most recently, “No Strings Attached” and “Friends with Benefits” take love and technology and add another component with which college students are all too familiar: casual hook-ups. Apparently, as consumers, all we want is casual sex, Technology-driven relationships focused more on the tone of a clever text than anything that takes slightly more effort.
Truth be told, producers aren’t necessarily wrong on all accounts. Love in the digital age has simultaneously become wonderfully easy and maddeningly complicated. Gone are the days of waiting by the phone for your beloved to call. But, also gone are the heartfelt handwritten letters full of sweet-nothings kept forever in a shoebox under the bed. Instead, our generation is thrown into the dating world equipped with emails, smart phones and online profiles with up-to-the-minute status updates. While we have surely gained a tremendous amount of communication due to expediency, it seems all the heart has gone out of the proceedings.
While this new age of love can be easily ignored with the help of Taylor Swift albums and the seemingly everlasting “Twilight” series, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the way we love (and want to see love on the silver screen) is changing, and not necessarily for the better.
Even ignoring predecessors like “He’s Just Not That Into You” and “Valentine’s Day,” “Friends with Benefits” and “No Strings Attached” are almost carbon copies of each other, leaving audiences this summer wondering, “Hey, didn’t I pay $12 to see you six months ago?”
The answer would be “sort of.” In “No Strings Attached,” Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher played a similar duo, looking for a more vibrant sex life with the ability to stay on emotional lock-down. Someone should have told Kunis and Timberlake that it didn’t work then, either.
While Kunis and Timberlake are energetic almost to a fault, the lack of chemistry is the real downfall of the film. The actors make their way through beautiful shots of New York and Los Angeles and everything seems just a tad too simple. Kunis proudly proclaims that she is emotionally damaged as Timberlake admits he is emotionally unavailable. However the audience never feels the disconnect. Both actors are like open books, which is great for interviews on Entertainment Tonight but not so much on the silver screen.
Where “No Strings Attached” succeeds and “Friends with Benefits” fails is the depth of the characters. It almost feels as though Kunis and Timberlake didn’t have enough in the script to latch on to, as we’ve seen them perform so much better in films like “The Social Network” and “Black Swan.” “No Strings Attached” has the benefit of a stronger supporting cast of characters and is free of cross-country plot ploys. “Friends with Benefits” is beyond hindered by the fact that it feels like an afterthought.
But what’s more telling than just the shared plot of these two movies is that people are actually willing to see both (or at least I was). Sure, sex scenes with hot actors may be the predominant factor drawing in ticket sales, but that can’t explain all of it. Instead, it seems we’re just as drawn to these sorts of relationships as we are to the fairytales told to us as children. We want the stress and pain that comes with a delayed text message. We’re excited for sex that comes with absolutely no attachment or commitment. Not only do we want this, be we seek it out in theatres and pay absurd prices to watch it play out before our eyes, many of us knowing the exact hurt that comes with a curt response from a love interest via the internet.
As humans, we instinctively search for love and this is the modern day love story. So as moviegoers flocked to “Love Story” and “When Harry Met Sally,” they will flock to this new breed of romantic comedy because it’s what they know, and dare I say, love. So whether you’re into watching technology-driven love on screen or not, expect to see many more of these to come.