Aside from the romantic comedy element, the only thing these three movies share is a main character with a heart-breaking background story. Never fear, however, for while you may experience teary moments during any of these films, the ability of the plotlines to tap into a wide spectrum of emotions is what makes them so compelling.
Pretty Woman was made in 1990 and stars Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. It follows the story of an apathetic and ruthless business man (Gere). Discouraged by his social life and potential romances, he chooses to hire an inexperienced prostitute (Roberts) to accompany him for a week, provoking hilarity and romance. But much of this film’s tenderness and relatable moments center upon Robert’s life at home. Having turned to prostitution in a desperate bid for money, she rooms with a close friend whose drug addiction causes problems that are anything but comedic. The collision of worlds and the sharp juxtaposition of comedy and a harsher reality make this film one you’ll remember.
Where the Heart Is
Made in 2000 and starring Natalie Portman in the role of a white-trash, pregnant teenager who gives birth in a Walmart, Where the Heart Is has the potential for plenty of bad acting and cringe-worthy dialogue. Oddly, this expectation is never fulfilled. Instead, what comes through is talent and sincerity, turning a silly-sounding story into something powerful and heart-felt. While Portman is outstanding all by herself, portraying the fear and strength of the main character with immense skill, the performances of Ashley Judd, Stockard Channing and James Frain take this movie the rest of the way.
About a Boy
Want something a little more masculine? Or perhaps something a little more British? About a Boy, made in 2002 and starring Hugh Grant in the role of a wealthy, selfish playboy (big surprise), delivers comedy and romance through the eyes of a man. While Grant’s character is frustrating in the extreme at first, he is soon coerced into a friendship with a sensitive and troubled young boy played by Nicholas Hoult, who teaches him the importance of loved ones. About a Boy focuses on the many and varied incarnations of loneliness. The sharp wit and the serious themes turn this film into one you’ll have trouble getting out of your head.
I’ll admit to you, I’ve seen a lot romantic comedies. Mostly, they’re disappointing. Something is lacking in the character development, or in the writing, something that leaves you feeling as though you just spend 90 minutes watching a couple make out in a bar. These three, however, have that extra element that brings the emotions through.