Cyrano de Bergerac 1950 Directed by Stanley Kramer.with Jose Ferrer. Terrific. This is the version that inspired Steve Martin’s iteration. Free with Amazon Prime.
Roxanne 1987 A modern retelling of Edmond Rostand’s verse play Cyrano de Bergerac with adaptation by Steve Martin. Directed by Fred Schepisi. C.D. “Charlie” Bales, (Steve Martin playing the Cyrano role), has an enormous nose about which he’s understandably sensitive. Here, a fire chief, Bales is also smart, extremely articulate, athletic, charismatic, romantic, and funny. Daryl Hannah plays graduate astronomy student Roxanne Kowalski. The hero is infatuated, but sure he hasn’t got a chance.
Writing love letters to her in the name of chronically shy, not very bright, but handsome fireman, Chris (Rick Rossovich), is a way to express his feelings. Unlike the play, this has a happy ending. Well written, directed, and acted. Buoyant. Martin wrote 25 drafts over 3 years. Rent on Amazon Prime and Netflix.
Bridges of Madison County 1995 Based on the novel by Robert James Waller. Produced, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. Get out your handkerchiefs! Understated and beautiful. (Though her kids are an irritating framework.) The children of Italian war bride/farmer’s wife, Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep) are shocked to find vestiges of a secret love among possessions their mother has left after death.
We look back at her brief time with photographer Robert Kinkaid (Eastwood), two souls clearly meant for one another. The story was filmed chronologically from Francesca’s point of view, “because it was important to work that way. We were two people getting to know each other, in real time, as actors and as the characters.” Free with Amazon Prime.
Away From Her 2007 Based on Alice Monroe’s story The Bear Came Over the Mountain. Written and Directed by Sarah Polley. Grant (Gordon Pinsent) and Fiona (the still luminous Julie Christie), married many years, have retired to a rustic house at the edge of the Canadian woods. When they begin to see unmistakable signs of her Alzheimer’s, Fiona calmly secures Grant’s commitment to take her to a nursing home if she can no longer cope.
The time comes. Fiona is situated in a pleasant facility. Grant becomes omnipresent, neither allowing his wife to adjust, nor fully comprehending changes in her psyche. He’s forced to accept dramatic change (and loss) when she develops a relationship with another resident. Adroitly written and played. Painful; realistic. Also with Olympia Dukakis (splendid), Michel Murphy, Wendy Crewson. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Last Chance Harvey 2008 Written and Directed by Joel Hopkins. If you know about this small, independent film, you get cinema points. Divorced American jingle composer, Harvey Shine (Dustin Hoffman), has arrived in London for his daughter’s wedding, only to be ostracized. He’s fired from a job back home by telephone and misses his flight. Single Londoner Kate Walker (Emma Thompson), who collects statistics from airport passengers, has yet another disastrous blind date. Both are depressed, at loose ends, and dining alone at an airport bar.
Looking for someone, anyone to talk to, Harvey recalls Kate from the terminal and apologizes for being rude. They walk and talk. Finding a sympathetic soul and reticent to go alone, he invites Kate to his daughter’s wedding reception. Presumptions are made and dispelled. They agree to meet on a bench at Kensington the next day. She shows up, Harvey doesn’t, but he has a really good reason. The film realistically ends with possibility.
A deftly executed portrait of middle-aged loneliness. Several of Harvey and Kate’s conversations were ad-libbed while keeping within the dictates of the plot. Rent on Amazon Prime and Netflix.
Lovely Still 2008 Written and Directed by Nik Fackler. Secretly brought together by his boss at a grocery store (the elderly man holds a menial job), Robert Malone (Martin Landau) falls in love with Mary (Ellen Burstyn), the mother of a neighbor. Robert lives in the somewhat altered world of senile dementia. The two get along well and share pre-Christmas activities. It becomes obvious that she knows him better than she lets on. Immensely sensitive. Fine acting. Free with Amazon Prime and Netflix.
Hope Springs 2012 Directed by David Frankel. Omaha empty-nesters, Kay and Arnold Soames (Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones), fly to Maine at her insistence to undergo extreme marriage therapy with couples psychiatrist, Dr. Bernard Feld (Steve Carell, playing it straight). Each session leaves them with homework she’s anxious to try and he disdains. After a solo meeting with the doctor, Bernard attempts to fix years of neglect in one night. It goes awry. The couple returns home to their old routine, until…Feels authentic. Touching without saccharine. Rent on Amazon Prime.
I’ll See You in My Dreams 2015 Directed, co-written, and co-produced by Brett Haley. Attractive widow Carol Peterson (Blythe Danner) has not had a serious relationship in 20 years. Her closest friends live at a retirement home, while she maintains independence in a house. The ladies play golf and cards. When Carol serendipitously runs into Bill (Sam Elliott) several times, he asks her on a date. They begin to see one another; he spends the night. He asks whether she’s thought about remarrying.
Alternate perspective on whether to invest in love is embodied by a troubled pool boy she befriends (just that) who can’t see any future except taking care of his mother, and Carol’s daughter, Katherine, with her own set of issues. Just when the heroine is looking forward to life again, the rug is pulled from under her. Still, outlook is now more positive. Not earth shaking, but pretty to look at, nicely underplayed, and who doesn’t like watching Sam Elliott. Rent on Amazon Prime and Netflix.
Paris Can Wait 2016 Written, co-produced, and directed by Eleanor Coppola. A cinematic/romantic travelogue. Ann (Diane Lane) is married to workaholic producer, Michael Lockwood (Alec Baldwin). They plan to leave the Cannes Film Festival together for a long overdue Paris vacation, but Michael has a fire to put out elsewhere.
As Ann has an ear infection and can’t fly, Michael’s business partner Jacques (Arnaud Viard) offers to drive. What should be a direct trip turns into a leisurely sojourn. Jacques has friends along the way and is a gourmand; they meet people and dine exquisitely, gradually getting to know one another. Ann relaxes into the beautiful environment.
Jacques appreciates everything Michael now takes for granted. His companion responds, yet nothing untoward occurs…until a single kiss. He asks to meet her back in San Francisco. Good fantasy seeding. Rent on Amazon Prime.
An Affair to Remember is under Streaming Deborah Kerr.
Goddard’s A Man and A Woman is, alas, streamable nowhere.
More to Come