Rewatching The Romantics 5 years later and wow, that guy’s the worst.
Maybe you’ve heard of The Romantics. Maybe you’ve watched it on a Friday night with a bottle of wine after falling down an Amazon Prime Video hole. Maybe we’re not so different, you and I. The Romantics is a movie by Galt Niederhoffer that she adapted from her novel of same name. By most accounts available online, it is not a good movie. It cost 4.5M to make and made less than $125K at the box office. I keep watching it because it’s very pretty visually and also the soundtrack is phenomenal. I’m going to use it here to give you dating advice, if you don’t mind.
Since you can’t really ruin a movie that’s just okay, here’s the gist: A group of college friends get together because two of them are marrying each other. Except of course the groom is marrying the wrong girl. He should instead, if you fall for such things, marry her best friend because that’s the one he’s in love with and has been for like, years. There are actually three instances of couple swapping, at least. It’s a…close knit group, so to speak, though not much background is given. This film relies on your assumptions pretty heavily, just go with it.
Every few years I return to this film because I need to watch something that doesn’t require any investment on my part. I’ve typically just sat down on the couch with a bowl of pasta made from chickpeas and I want to watch something I don’t mind all that much before my dish gets cold. This film never tells you enough about any one character for you to develop feelings, and therefore suits my purposes. I also enjoy the idyllic setting of this film although no explanation is ever given as to where they actually are or why there are so many different buildings on this property that they’re allowed to be dysfunctional in. It might be the Hamptons, I’m not sure.
The main focal point of the film, apart from Anna Paquin in very small sundresses, is Katie Holmes and Josh Duhamel’s characters’ tortured lovers routine. Josh Duhamel’s character is set to marry Anna Paquin’s character, but Josh Duhamel’s character is in love with Katie Holmes, who he dated all through college and continued to fuck after graduation, occasionally. The wedding and indeed the relationship itself is depicted as such a shock to the system of Katie Holmes’ character that you’re often left to wonder why she’d put herself through the pain of even showing up. As you’ll learn, she makes self destruction something of a habit.
Wait…I don’t get it, why is Josh Duhamel’s character marrying Anna Paquin’s character if he’s in love with the woman played by Katie Holmes? Here’s where the plot thins to crepe batter: We have no fucking idea. There’s a vague suggestion by Malin Åkerman’s character that it’s for money, which for sure could hold water, but these characters are supposedly hovering around 25 years old and it seems way too early in Josh Duhamel’s character’s career for him to decide to just sort of be “kept” for the rest of his life. And especially not while he’s still in love with and kind of still fucking seeing the character played by Katie Holmes. You have to accept a lot of nonsense to make it to this movie’s closing credits. Including why someone would name a child “Minnow.”
It makes no sense. He’s in love with her, she’s in love with him, but like not just love. This is consuming, addicted love. They are each other’s “person.” Anyone with eyes and an Amazon subscription can see that. So during the whole movie we’re watching these tortured people — wait, I’m sorry, we mainly just see her torture because it’s way more fun to watch single women long for something than to also show the story from the man’s perspective, right?—dance around the fact that they’re both really upset about this upcoming wedding. She at least has the good sense to call out how this whole vaudevillian circus seems like a bad idea, but he doesn’t supply any answers that satiate.
For a long time, I didn’t understand it. Why would Josh Duhamel’s character opt for the woman he basically just sort of likes when he could spend his days and nights with someone he loves so much that he has sex with her on the grass outside the night before his wedding to someone else? In previous viewings of this film, I was outraged that he wouldn’t just come to his damned senses and run off with Katie Holmes’ character to be like…happy! That’s what the viewer is supposed to want, right? The two people in love actually getting (back) together? But an older, wiser, more bullshit-resistant version of me sees things much more clearly now. He’s actually a piece of shit.
There’s a special breed of trash human that I’ve had trouble spotting in the past: Guys Who Hate That You’re Awesome. They freak out. They run. They’re the ones who can’t handle something good, and you my darlings are what’s good. Know them. Recognize them. Block them on Instagram.
Josh Duhamel’s character is clearly in love with Katie Holmes’ character. Like literally cannot stay away from her. I did mention that he has sex with her on the grass outside the night before his wedding to someone else. And yet, he’s about to marry her best friend, right in front of her. Oh yeah, I forgot, Katie Holmes’ character is the maid of honor because we haven’t yet poured enough lemon juice into the open wound that is her heart. The limp reasoning Josh Duhamel’s character gives for being unable to be happy with the woman he actually loves and his willingness to marry the frigid psychopath played by Anna Paquin is that he feels he can’t possibly live up to the amazing times they’ve had together in the past. He’s literally intimidated by his own relationship. Which makes no fucking sense at all but it never makes sense when a man really, really likes a woman and therefore cannot be with her.
These creatures are real. I had one once. It’s a sobering experience, being made to feel wrong for being wonderful. Katie Holmes’ character is being denied the love of her life because she held a beautiful space for him. She was everything he wanted, and therefore he didn’t want her anymore. Not enough to marry her anyway. He can’t marry someone he actually loves, that would be insane.
Katie Holmes’ character isn’t innocent here, by the way. In my opinion she should have never spoken to this man (or her “best friend” who thought it was totally chill to marry this guy without even fucking discussing it with her bestie first) ever again in her life. These people are red flags turning all of your clothes pink in the dryer and rather than running from them, Katie Holmes’ character is instead writing a speech for their wedding. There’s being a good friend, and then there’s protecting yourself from emotional ruin. Her character cannot discern the difference.
Let me be clear: You cannot convince these people to stop freaking out. You cannot love them so much and be so “chill” about everything that they magically change their minds and decide to have a healthy relationship with you. Being “chill” about everything all the time for fear of scaring off the feral cat you’re dating is no way to live. If you freak someone out by being awesome, by being yourself, by loving them, run the fuck away. Don’t fall in love with the potential of things working out someday. Know that this kind of behavior is so much less than you deserve. Leave this shit in the wind and know that far better awaits you in the future.
But let’s get back to Josh Duhamel’s character because I think he’s an important archetype in the dating space and I want to make sure we put an end to our willingness to tolerate his kind. He should be shut down and ignored the very second his nonsense bubbles to the surface. He’s a Guy Who Hates That You’re Awesome and there is no room for him on earth any longer. He is also simply the worst. Supporting arguments:
- He has sex with someone who is not his fiance on the grass outside the night before his wedding. He initiates this!
- He doesn’t tell the love of his life that he’s started dating her best friend. She has to learn of this when her best friend calls her to ask her to be her maid of honor. Would you die?!
- Right before all this ballyhoo started, I mean right before, Katie Holmes and Josh Duhamel’s characters have an amazing night together that ends in sex. She finds out about the engagement like…days later. If you’re keeping track, we know of two times this guy has cheated on the woman he’s proposed marriage to.
- He visits his bride-to-be as she goes to sleep the night before her wedding and starts to tell her about his doubts and whathaveyou. The night before her wedding.
- He leaves the woman he slept with the night before his wedding to wake up alone on the presumably wet grass in the morning.
So this guy’s done. We can agree to that. Is he tall and handsome and possessing something resembling academic intelligence? Yes. But he is also the fucking worst. Further, no man is that tall or that attractive or that smart that we should ignore the simple truth that it’s weird when someone can’t handle something good. We as the un-freaked out parties to the relationship shouldn’t be responsible for someone else’s emotional immaturity.
If you’re interacting with someone romantically or sexually and they literally cannot handle how amazing it is to be around you, run. Fast and far. Run before they do. Because they will. And it will hurt. But first they’re going to keep you around, just a little. Just the amount they can handle. And the longer you let them dip their toes in the water of you, the more it will hurt when it ends for real. So end it now. Don’t look back, don’t check in, just block, delete, and move on. The sooner you start, the sooner you won’t feel anything but pity for this person who missed out on the wonderful thing that scared them so much.
And hey, if you’re looking for something to do while you pass the time getting over someone who couldn’t handle being happy with you, I’ve got a completely mediocre movie you can watch. Watching it with informed eyes is a very interesting experience, I dare say it makes the film more entertaining. The characters and conversations are weird and there will be lots you won’t understand, but you will know that this isn’t a story of how two people should be together. It’s a story of learning to recognize bullshit, and seeing the benefits in setting it free. The soundtrack is amazing though, really.