Mandel Maven's Nest on Rom Com-Ready Real Romances
Nora Lee Mandel is a member of New York Film Critics Online and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists. Her reviews are counted in the Rotten Tomatoes TomatoMeter:
Complete Index to Nora Lee Mandel's Movie Reviews
Since August 2006, edited versions of most of my reviews of documentaries/indie/foreign films are at Film-Forward; since 2012, festival overviews at FilmFestivalTraveler; and, since 2016, coverage of women-made films at FF2 Media. Shorter versions of my older reviews are at IMDb's comments, where non-English-language films are listed by their native titles.
My Lilith Watch: Critical Guide to Jewish Women in the Movies
My “Chick Flicks” reviews include reel romances.
I consider movies that include any inter-ethnic/race/religion/class romantic relationships at my ”Romeo & Juliet Across the Ethnic Divide”.
Truth can be more romantic than fiction! In my vast experience observing Young Lovers at concerts in NYC as an invisible gray-hair, the men initiate the Public Displays of Affection at least three-quarters of the time (there are a lot of times I want to warn the guys - hey, she's just not that into you!) I’m not the only one who reads the wedding announcements in The New York Times with my Sunday breakfast when it’s too early to go to the movies or concerts. It’s the basic premise of 27 Dresses, where the guy writes the Wedding of the Week column that all the guys think no one reads and all the women do. I started reading them professionally to track the genealogy of The Rich To Raise Money From, especially on the maternal sides for inheritances, moved on to the fascinating sociology of The Masters of the Universe and Overachieving Power Elite, though I don't see where they have time to date amongst gathering all their degrees (including My Scion and Perfect Daughter-in-Law). Now I read it for vicarious romantic entertainment and for the sources of where "meet cute" movie scripts surely must come from, sort of like Law and Order "ripped from the headlines" for chicks -- and Nanci Griffith uses them to inspire her story songs, specifically her "Love Conquers All".
The impact of 9/11 has been touching, though the ones who met in college, let alone rediscovered high school sweethearts, are less interesting. There's been at least two nascent relationships that persevered through leukemia treatments. I object that so many have zero to do with NYC while too many seem to be in PR or media (a colleague who formerly worked on the page claimed that others won’t participate or else lie)– and it was cheap to include the marriage of a 40-something Oscar winner to a globetrotting PR woman half his age. While some are supplemented on line with he said/she said videos, now “The Vows” column is following up to see if they last, hmm. Ah, real and reel life sometimes come together -- as in the tale of the trendy chef who realizes his ex-waitress was the girl-who-got-away by watching High Fidelity. But will the film producer who first falls in love with a writer's script but doesn't fall for him until they're on a cross-country road trip turn their lives into a movie?
Two documentarians, whose excellent work I’ve reviewed, needed a friend of her parents meeting his parents on a Spanish bike trip to urge them to get together: how many of the same film festivals and events were Jennifer Grausman (Art and Craft) and Andy Schocken (Song Of Lahore) before this matchmaking made the difference for finally meeting up at a West Village bar? (updated 1/16/2017)
Recent Movie-Ready New York Times Wedding Announcements- (updated 11/13/2012) --
-- Inspired by 9/11:
"Although he lived in Washington and she in New York, they began dating. Then, a year and a half later, they broke off their relationship. "I pretty much made it clear that I didn't see marriage as a likely outcome at that time," he recalled. . .He had come to New York to see ground zero. On his way back to the airport he had asked the taxi driver to swing by her apartment, not knowing if she still lived there. "I told the driver to wait for a minute, and I asked the doorman if [she] still lives here, and he said, `Yeah, I think she's up there right now,'" he said. . .Within three months they were engaged."
A NYC medical examiner and a NYPD criminal investigator fall in love as they were trying to identify victims of the WTC disaster
a NYC cop marries the fiancée of his best friend, a NYC fireman who died 9/11. Yeah, straight outta a movie, but still sweet anyway
"Then Sept. 11 happened," she says. "How could you not say how you feel when the most horrible thing in world just happened? There was no way I could keep my feelings to myself."
-- They met in fall 2000 at a gay nightclub in Manhattan. . . She had no interest in dating again but did like to dance, she said. So when she gave him her telephone number that day, she did so thinking that he was romantically inclined toward men. . . I finally went out with him after he got a dog," she said. She added: "The whole dog thing about how he used it to get me to spend time with him is a longstanding joke among our friends. He was very persistent. He'd say to me, `I don't know what toys to get. Can you help me pick some out?' Or he'd say, `Can you help me train it?' And I'd say `I'm too busy to come out to see you.' But then. . . . "
-- A couple meet as Peace Corps volunteers in Kyrgyzstan, but they are "assigned to villages at opposite ends of the country, separated by the Tien-Shan mountain range," he said. "The only way to travel between the two towns was a 22-hour car ride on an unpaved road or a flight on a Yak-40, a small Brezhnev-era Soviet jet." Six months later in the capital at a "second meeting, their affection for each other immediately took root and rapidly grew. [She] said she knew because she found herself 'waiting by the phone' when she returned to her village, 'even though most of the time I was waiting, the phone didn't work.'"
--The poor little rich girl grew up between her divorced parents in Palm Beach, FL and Newport, RI. Divorced herself, she came to NYC to work as a publicist. She fell in love while paying for 16 training sessions at the hip Chelsea Piers to a guy with a degree in exercise science who loved to play guitar-- and now he can also get a PhD in kinesiology.
-- The workaholic actuary CEO who steps off the work train for dance lessons, and finds love with the Polish immigrant instructor ten years her junior; another couple meet while learning a tango dance called a milonga through the stylized ritual of the look called the cabaceo
-- Several couples met during the Gore-Lieberman campaign or other political-related activities. One such couple found each other for further conversation at a Woody Allen movie in Nashville. After all, how many other Jews were there in Nashville anyway? Another hesitated to date during the Lewinsky scandal, as she was an intern in a Senator's office and he was her supervisor. But they courted by attending the Clinton impeachment hearings. Another through a Greenpeace clean-energy campaign. Another met in a coffee shop while researching public health and finance issues in Peru: I see us following each other around the world for the rest of our lives. And Republicans meet cute and fall in love too. Then there was a couple who met on the Kerry campaign – and she's a Rockefeller and he's a scion of politicians. Plus the journalist and White House staffer who met at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) evidently goes around bragging how many matches he’s made among his staffers – and then pressed them to have kids. (I guess it doesn’t count that my son mentored his daughter on the Stuyvesant High School debate team, but dated and married another debater.)
-- Another Rockefeller, this time with the townie who watched her grow up with her nanny around the cove on her grandfather's Maine island. She only wanted summer flings over several years, but he followed her to NYC, then composed a "to do" list to improve himself over more years to win her over as she kept running away, from Brazil to Hawaii to L.A., where he finally "chased" her down. "Seven years of waiting and friendship, that was the hard part," he is quoted as saying, for what would also be a key line in the movie version that was doubtless being written the day it was published on 9/19/2010. (Somewhat less cinematic the same issue was the Roosevelt who fell in love at first sight with a woman he was introduced through double mutual friends.)
-- A Navy officer meets an assistant to Mayor Giuliani on the steps of City Hall planning a destroyer commissioning event: It was the only date I ever went on where I discussed foreign policy.
-- And there was NJ Republican royalty coming together, as it were, with the marriage of scions of an ex-Governor and state representative.
-- A network researcher falls in love with an Olympic athlete when interviewing her for a story (would he have gone on to law school if she hadn't been a lawyer too?). A twist on MTV and The Office: two TRL producers are friendly and then dating, but he only shows more interest when he's jealous, even when she moves back home to Seattle: The one thing I did right is I did go and get her back. An Oprah producer decides to write a book on dating and interviews the tall, dark and handsome guy at the next table in a restaurant.
-- A guy falls for a curly-haired woman on a cable car, but doesn't work up the nerve to talk -- until later at a party he discovers she's organized a party for his visiting friend, her sister.
-- A former court clerk now an ADA marries a former undercover cop turned salesman of software for law enforcement agencies. They met in court of course.
--A divorced 50's dad meets a divorced 40's mom on the bagel store line, and tracks her down through the parents' school directory.
-- A city-living single woman in her '40's gets swept off her feet by a suburban divorced father of 4 and marries him less than two months after they meet -- wasn't there already a TV series that got cancelled like this?
--A woman who is an IT manager at an investment bank checks out surfboards at a SoHo gallery, and ends up surfing around the world with the designer. At least that one had a video interview – there was tantalizingly little background on how the lawyer from a family of D.C. lawyers met and married the NYC firefighter who plays the bagpipes with the Emerald Society of Pipes and Drums.
-- Two Reservists find another common interest, their devotion to their 85 year old mothers with whom each lives
-- The son and daughter of best friends grew up together, dated when they were freshmen in high school, worked around the world, then in their '30's give each other a second look.
-- Quite a few met in elementary school – but one couple even had their old teacher as their officiant.
--Another met at the same camp where the bride's parents met, but didn't reconnect until year's later when he visited her frequently as she recuperated from a car accident.
Couples who dated a bit in college, reunite at their tenth (or other) reunion. Harvard dorm mates reconnect when he sees her book reviewed in New Yorker and he chatted her up in line at a book signing.
--Another's family has been intertwined since in the late 1940's Greek Civil War, during which a grandfather of the groom saved the life of a great-uncle of the bride by hiding him in a hospital in Athens.
--Another meet at a Manhattan sports bar where she's rooting for her Mom's home town team - which happens to be his too -- and his mom was her mom's English teacher there. Another meet at a Washington, D.C. sports bar where she’s a waitress – but they’re both visible as rabid Pittsburgh Steelers fans. She made the first move late in the season as the first guy she’d ever given her number to there.
--One set of next door neighbors in PA moves to Australia. The Aussie son is urged to look up the now NYC daughter when he's briefly in town. They reluctantly obliged their parents by meeting for a drink at a bar -- and immediately changed their plans.
--A different take on family involvement: they met in middle school, "and the next year she was a guest at his bar mitzvah and he at her bat mitzvah. Although they remained friends through high school, after graduation in 1992 they lost track of each other. In 2004, their mothers ran into each other on the New Jersey shore, at a Long Beach Island house tour . . .He, who had known two [girls with that name] in high school, wasn’t sure to whom he was sending that first e-mail message. The correspondence ignited instant online chemistry. . . But they discovered they had their differences, too. 'I am a liberal Democrat, and he is a conservative Republican, and even more fundamental, I am a die-hard Mets fan and he a die-hard Yankees fan,' she said. Another's mother was her pediatric dentist, perhaps inspiring her to go on to dental school.
-- A couple had a college summer job romance fling. Three years later, the elevator opens for him to interview a job applicant. It's her - "shock and surprise" - "serendipity" or "fate"? No word on if she got that job.
-- Two doctors from different specialties meet over a transplant case - it had been a kidney-pancreas operation but the patient was having heart problems. A dog owner meets the vet at an emergency hospital. Two college students share a class in the social psychology of human relationships, but they don't talk until the last day of class and first date a week after the exam.
-- A divorced Manhattanite and Brooklynite in their '60's gradually start talking to each other on the Greyhound bus each weekend up to their country houses in Vermont
-- A couple think they recognize each other on a subway platform, figure out they both went to Harvard and went to Hillel services at the same time, then discover that not only are they waiting for the same train, but they live across the street from each, and work in the same building. Yet another couple recognized each other in the subway station from synagogue and discovered they lived cater-corner from each other. Another couple meet when a mutual friend mailing off wedding invitations realizes they live in the same building. And another couple is set up for a blind date - and also discover they live in the same building -- and have family summer houses in the same Cape Cod town and have the same birth date. Yet another takes a Hamptons share with friends and discover they also live in the same building.
-- A macho sports fan gets a tip on an appealing woman. But she's ditched her corporate life to run a knitting shop and she's not interested in going out. He starts hanging out at the shop and learns to knit to win her over.
-- A couple met through the personals of the leftist Nation magazine and courted by going to used book sales. Another couple met when he got roped into being the only guy at a Barnard alumnae book group.
-- A woman puts her second-hand love seat up on Craig's List before moving from Brooklyn back home to South Carolina. A recently divorced guy buys it as she's shlumpily packing away, and is instantly smitten.
-- Here's pressure: getting set up on a blind date by Martha Stewart with the weddings editor of her magazine! Or meeting the son of your boss at a singles mixer! Or being the guy who ended up in the tabloids when he got left at his honeymoon for Jerry Seinfeld? (well, it helped that he's a scion of a Broadway theater owning family)
--A doctor falls for a woman just before she gets on MTV . . .They agreed to part. . . After the show wrapped that November, they 'picked up where we left off,' she said. . .. But when The Real World started showing in January 2002, her dating prowess became a central story line. One episode in particular, involving a tryst caught by a night-vision camera, led to an anguished call . . .He told her 'he wanted out,' she recalled. 'Everyone has a past. But that's not something you necessarily want to review with them on national television.' She became a spokeswoman for a depression-awareness campaign. . . 'It took us a long time to settle out from all of that,' 'Eventually we came to a place where we were ready to try again.'" (From the Vows column of May 21, 2006 by Ellen Futterman)
-- Chance meetings: at a Chelsea flea market; in airport waiting lounges; in the Holland Tunnel; sharing a taxi in the rain; at the health club; on their law firm's or favorite bar softball team; sitting next to each other at a Giants' football game and on adjacent blankets at the Bryant Park Summer Film Festival; sitting next to each other on a plane, one couple to Japan on their way to teach English and a Brit and an American meet on a delayed flight from Texas to California and fly from city to city to date; at a bar association cocktail party; on jury duty - deadlocked on opposing sides; falling off a ski lift; a lobby of a conference hotel in Barcelona; she’s the bartender where he’s celebrating his 25th birthday; when a truck crashed into their cars; on a packed Amtrak Metroliner as she was on her way to an incommunicado semester in Africa, on a Pine Barrens field trip looking for frogs, at a UN reception
-- More than one couple got set up on blind dates by their grandmothers, their mother's/aunt's book group or introduced by their doormen. One by their co-working dads. A commitment-procrastinator was given an ultimatum by his parents: marry her already or we'll adopt her! Another mother followed the guy right out of the restaurant to get his number for her daughter and even called for her– after all he was also taking his mother out for Mother's Day lunch. And then he brought his mom along as his wingman for drinks later.
-- One Brooklyn couple met leaving the Essence music festival in N'Orlins, another on a sub-Antarctic hike; he's the drummer in Alanis Morisette's band and noticed her in the audience -- assuring that they liked the same things.
-- The high school debaters who met at summer debate institute where she beat him roundly in policy; the high school Oxford-attendees who keep thinking of each other until a decade later they start an e-mail correspondence, then phone and finally re-meet
-- The guy who agrees to a blind date set up by a mutual friend at the very minute that by chance he's perusing her profile on an online dating service that she thought she'd cancelled.
-- The teacher who 30 years later marries his student (he's been divorced twice, with four kids; she once with one kid)
-- The guy who finds his 2nd grade through junior high crush from afar on a dating web site - no wonder they have a lot in common once they start dating
-- The widower and the divorcee living in the same 5th Avenue apartment building whose romance is "helped along" by the head of their sons' Little League who intentionally puts their kids on the same team
-- A small Brooklynite and friends atypically stay local for a club night, her friend diverts her from getting hit on by claiming her boyfriend is there, so she asks a husky, protective looking stranger to pretend. Only 3 dates later he was really her boyfriend.
-- A girl on the Upper East Side holds onto her crush on her handsome doorman, 12 years her senior, and marries him when she turns 30.
-- Weren’t there already movies about the much older white woman who falls for the black jazz musician from listening to him play? Or the ex-dancer who falls for the Broadway dancer when he sees her in Oklahoma - though it was a cute twist that his Jewish parents only accepted the schicksa when she played “Hodel” in Fiddler on the Roof. Or the (Harvard grad) son of a house cleaner and chauffeur who marries the daughter of a foundation VP and an investment banker?
-- This one is so schmaltzy that I'm sure it will be made into a teary movie: The wife of a cycling couple is stricken with cancer, and their cycling buddies rally to race for a cure. After a couple of remissions, she dies, giving her husband a death-bed plea to love again. Mere months later, he is cycling with one of those buddies, and friendship progresses to romance.
-- The groom "was an only child, the son of a father who was conscripted into the German Army at 14, near the end of World War II. The son was sent to parochial schools. At the same time [the bride] whose grandfather survived the concentration camp at Dachau, was studying at a yeshiva. Her family of Polish-Russian-Israeli immigrants were Orthodox Jews, members of the Lubavitch movement. Later, when both were starting careers in New York, they lived three blocks apart. . .When they met at last, it was by transcontinental telephone in fall 2003. . .Their rapport was instantaneous and evolved into a four-month phone flirtation. . .By the time they met face to face, at an Irish bar in Los Angeles during a business trip she made in January 2004, the chemistry was impossible to ignore. . .At the end of the night he kissed her. She promptly told him she could never see him again. "It was hard for me to date people I didn't intend to marry," she said. "I had dated a few guys who weren't Jewish, and it really hurt my mother." And yet, within days of her return to New York, she found herself back on the phone with him. Five months later she was planning to move to Los Angeles, and he was taking steps to convert to Judaism." Yes, all the steps. (from the "Vows" column of April 2, 2006 by Janelle Brown)
-- Another reporter (CNN) and spokesman (First Marine Expeditionary Force) wed in 2006 met at a press conference in Iraq, but even Wolf Blitzer thinks this one should be a movie (the "Vows" column of November 7, 2004 by Cate Doty). The January 2005 Vows featured yet another Jewish officer just back from Iraq, this time a West Point grad marrying his (non-Jewish) high school sweetheart.
--Even on the sports pages is a love story: see Freedom Does More Than Improve a Swing by Selena Roberts, August 11, 2005.
-- Now The Times has Modern Love in the Style Section (which also is being adapted into a movie), but not all about happy ending romances, at least not for narrator, as in A Go-Between Gets Going by Kirsten Allen Major, August 14, 2005
-- Then there's the The Allure of the Tool Belt as Joyce Wadler noted in The New York Times on July 20, 2006: "The client has finally found that ideal — the heterosexual man who will go shopping with her. . . 'They’ve been totally sexualized, like the U.P.S. man,' said Stephen Drucker, the editor in chief of House Beautiful. 'I can’t tell you how many times when I hear somebody give a recommendation for a contractor it inevitably ends with the four words, ‘And he’s really cute.’ Which only makes sense, he added. 'It’s all very intimate. You’re making plans for how you are going to live your life with this person in enormous detail. And let’s face it, they take off their shirts a lot and that doesn’t hurt. . .[The contractor], whose story had a happy ending [in engagement], is conscious of the hazards of sexual tensions between client and contractor. 'I’d say 75 percent of the projects where I have constant contact with the homeowner’s wife I get the feeling of some level of sexual desperation. . . I don’t think Desperate Housewives has helped this cause at all.'"
-- And here's one that already was a sitcom: The writers for the fictional Monica and Chandler on Friends wed, as described in Vows by Devan Sipher, October 22, 2006. Another TV link was a Dr. Who fan who realized a temp in his newspaper office had been an actress on the show and in the cast of "The Doctor"s Hamlet that he had waited for hours in line to see. And that was before they realized they'd lived consecutively in the same North London apartment (with it's Being Human resonance).
Jessica Pressler pointed out another movie-ready twist on these wedding stories in New York Magazine, 9/8/09: "Gross: People Who Reveal in the ‘Vows’ Column How They Cheated on Their Previous Spouse" and summarized in the prologue to an episode on "Infidelity" for public radio's This American Life.
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