Romance Tropes Part 1: Enemies to Lovers

I was thinking about romcoms recently – films, rather than books – and I realised that some of my absolute faves are those based on the ‘enemies to lovers’ trope.

Boy meets girl, she thinks he’s a dick. He thinks she’s stuck up. Hilarity and, eventually, love ensue.

For this trope to work, however, those initial perceptions have to be just a little bit true – he is a bit of a dick and she is a little stuck up – but both traits are about self-preservation. As the audience or reader, we see that each character’s exterior self is a defence mechanism.

And, as we’re familiar with the trope, we just know these characters will shed those prickly layers because they’ve met the other person.

Some of the best romantic comedy films do this perfectly.

  • French Kiss (Kate and Luc)
  • How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (Andie and Ben)
  • Overboard (Annie/Joanna and Dean)
  • 10 Things I Hate About You (Kat and Patrick)
  • Sweet Home Alabama (Melanie and Jake – also a ‘lovers reunited’ story)
  • Clueless (Cher and Josh)
  • The Proposal (Margaret and Andrew – although he’s not a dick; he’s kinda terrific, actually)

Even Harry and Sally, the main characters in a ‘friends to lovers’ story start out as enemies. He’s an arrogant dick. She’s a snooty cow. They become friends, then lovers, but this film – the perfect romantic comedy and my favourite ever – leans heavily on the ‘enemies to lover’ trope.

Engaging with the other person brings out something special in each character. Sally sees Harry’s vulnerable side, getting at the root of his arrogance, and drawing out his better self. Harry appreciates something in Sally that no one else does, and she can be her truest, best self with him.

French Kiss – definitely in my top 5 romcoms – explores the depths of the trope. Yes, it is a lighthearted comedy, but when Kate and Luc are offered (very appealing) alternatives to each other (spoiler) they realise that they have fallen in love – the uptight American and the dodgy Frenchman. And (more spoilers) if that last shot of them kissing passionately in a vineyard doesn’t warm your romantic cockles, perhaps nothing will.

In How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Andie and Ben are unknowingly pitted against each – enemies of circumstance – yet loves conquers all. And yes, Andrew in The Proposal is an unwitting victim to Margaret’s arrogance and entitlement – so bending the trope slightly – but they are still at cross-purposes for much of the story. By pretending to be with Andrew, Margaret’s vulnerable side shines through.

Admittedly, although I love this trope, I have yet to write it.  Wait! I have an idea …

Why Spectre Was a Giant Snore Fest

[Spoiler Alert!]

There’s no nice way to say this. Spectre is a silly and rather dull movie. Which for a HUGE Bond fan – particularly of the Daniel Craig era – is grossly disappointing. They say Craig is hanging up his Omega watch and bespoke suits and that they’ll be passing the Bond mantle onto someone else. Maybe that’s because this film was so silly and dull.

Let’s Talk About Sex

Bond has sex with two women in this film – the film’s first-ever Bond Woman, Monica Belluci, who is like a saucier, bedroom version of Nigella Lawson. Their scene was rather sexy – especially when compared with the nonsense that came later in the film – but there is absolutely no reason for it. She’s scared for her life, which Bond has saved, but she doesn’t seem particularly grateful about it, and I got the feeling she would have told him what he needed to know regardless of whether or not he’d stopped to check out her (incredibly nice) lingerie.

In fact, the sex makes him late for a VERY important meeting, which is the whole reason he is even in that part of the world. He’s being stupid – and Bond is not stupid. Reckless, sometimes, but never stupid.

The Bond Woman thing is a big deal, by the way. It is the first time in Bond history that Bond has seduced an older woman. Okay, Belluci is only a few years older than Craig, but still. And she really did rock that lingerie.

The other woman he has sex with is some blonde lady. I confess that I have yet to learn the actresses name, because she sort of blended into the background in every scene.

And of course she hates him when she meets him and sends him away and then he saves her life and she hates him some more and then they’re on a train, inexplicably dressed in the most beautiful clothes even though they’re most likely going to their deaths (cue the evil lair), and then they nearly  die, and then they have sex. In fact, they fight for their lives and then – both still impeccably dressed – they look at each other and say, “Now what.”

The ‘what’ is a cut-away edit to them tearing each other’s clothes off in a warmly-lit super spacious (i.e. non-existent) train cabin to SAXOPHONE music. Yes, really. And then of course she falls madly in love with him – not lust. Love. Good grief.

Bad Guys Always Lose

Christoph Waltz is the bad guy – this is a spoiler apparently, even though he is in the credits and all the previews, because for the first 15 minutes of his screen time, his face is hidden. This makes the big reveal – when Bond works out that the leader of this terrible faction is in fact his long-dead foster brother – a giant moment of tension and surprise. Only it isn’t. There is not ONE moment of tension or surprise in the whole movie – but I will get to that later.

Back to Waltz. I have seen him play one of the most horrifyingly evil basterds (sic) I’ve seen on films in years – (Inglorious Basterds, Nazi Officer), so he should be awesome as a Bond villain. Right?


He played the role as though he couldn’t have cared less. That’s not very scary. I’d say Waltz lost some credibility with this role – at least in my mind. And I adored him in Django – that performance leaves me in awe. Bleh.


There was some action, but nothing we haven’t seen done before – and better – in the Bourne films, the Mission Impossible films, Ronin, previous Bond films, The Italian Job, Fast and the Furious. Need I go on?

BO-RING! And having just re-watched Casino Royale, where that parkour chase scene at the beginning blew my mind again, I nearly fell asleep watching this film.

It was like watching Planes, Trains and Automobiles without the awesome script and terrific acting.

The plot

Is stupid. And makes no sense.

Fan Service

I heard that Spectre had a lot of fan service – these are juicy details there just because they will delight the fans. I was excited about this until I realised that most of it was directed at die-hard fans of the 1970s Bond films.

  • The Bond girl wears ridiculously impractical clothes for breaking into the evil villain’s evil lair, even though she knows she will likely have to run/fight for her life
  • Bond is strapped to some sort of torture device which makes no sense in the context of the plot (see above)
  • The evil villain has a white fluffy cat – yes really
  • The evil villain’s henchman doesn’t speak and he doesn’t die
  • There is a beautiful building on the top of a very pointy mountain
  • Bond never runs out of bullets but doesn’t carry extra ammo

Other Dumb/Annoying Things

  • When they destroy the evil guy’s lair – after the Scooby Doo-style confession of his giant evil plan – the destruction  seems to have no effect on the plan coming to fruition. This means that the evil plan needs to be stopped another way and that means the (stupid) trip to the desert on the train was pointless.
  • The style – the look – the feel – and the pace of the movie shifted drastically throughout. Sam Mendes couldn’t seem to make up his mind what kind of film he was making.
  • The (dumb) photocopied pictures of past characters in the finale. We’re supposed to believe that the evil villain is a BAZILLIONAIRE and he would stoop to using photocopied pictures? P-lease!
  • There were two secret hideouts for the same peripheral character. Que?
  • There were two bad guys and the second one was REALLY obvious from the outset. Why?

The good bits

  • The clothes were nice
  • The locations were nice
  • The Aston Martin was nice
  • Daniel Craig, nice to look at
  • M and Q and Moneypenny got some cool spy stuff to do
  • The theme song was rather nice
  • There were two (intentionally) funny bits – I liked those


I dreamed a dream…


To say that I was looking forward to seeing Les Miserable in the cinema is an understatement.  An excitable theater geek, I knew that I would be blown away by Tom Hooper’s screen  adaptation of this much-beloved musical, particularly with Hugh Jackman at the helm of the impressive cast.

Alas, I was not blown away.  I did experience moments of (excruciating) empathy, but I was not transported somewhere magical, as I had hoped and anticipated.

This is a dis-jointed film. Yes, there are moments of brilliance – such as Anne Hathaway’s extraordinary rendition of ‘I Dreamed a Dream” – but in between those moments the narrative and the energy of the film lag. While the play moves seamlessly between scenes, the film is a clash of styles and locations – some of which are hyper-realistic and others like a theater set.

Disappointingly, Hooper’s overuse of close ups begins in scene one and continues for the next three hours. Yes, these characters are experiencing the worst of what people could possibly endure. But extreme closeups detach them from the horror; the context gets lost and so does the emotional impact. When Marius sings “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables” – arguably Eddie Redmayne’s most impactful moment – we lose the sense that he is all alone in an empty room, because the camera is focused so tightly on his face.

Even the death of Gavroche loses impact because of photographic choices. What is so poignant about this moment is that he is a little boy. If the frame is too tight, we lose sight of how small he is in relation to that massive barricade.  And the rousing rowdiness of “Master of the House” is lost to a series of close-ups and quick edits. Only the final scene comes close to capturing what is so brilliant about the ensemble work in Les Miserable – they finally get to be an ensemble.

It may seem that I would have preferred to see something more like a filming of the stage version. No. However, I did expect that the medium of film would have been used to elevate the material more effectively.

The cast was also a mish-mash of talents and singing abilities. Hugh Jackman brings something to Valjean I have never seen, with the inner demons doing battle in his eyes. And while I still maintain that close up is over-used in this film, Cohen (the D.O.P.) and Hooper capture Jackman’s beautifully-honed performance thoroughly. In contrast, Russel Crowe’s performance is weak and self-conscious. He swallows his words when he sings and his eyes are vacant. Some might argue that this is an acting choice, but one of his character’s defining moment’s, “Stars”, is bland and a throw-away performance.

Stand-outs, not surprisingly, included actors who come from the stage, Samantha Barks as Eponine and Aaron Tveit as Enjolras, as well as the plucky Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche. Tveit, in particular, lends a weight to Enjolras that makes us believe his contemporaries would follow him into battle – and he has a divine singing voice.  Redmayne and Seyfried, as the star-crossed lovers, shine most when they are not singing, “A Heart Full of Love” – Redmayne in “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables” where his heartbreak at the loss of his friends is wholly believable, and Seyfried at the death of her father, Valjean.

Lastly, Anne Hathaway is sublime. I started teaching Drama in 1994 and since, I have sought out examples of actors connecting thoughts to their words. Her rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” – a song I have heard dozens, if not hundreds of times – is a perfect example of excellence. It made me hear the song for the first time. Yes, I think that the scene was shot too closely. But that is not her fault.

On the whole I enjoyed seeing this film, but I expected to be breathless, speechless, and a weepy mess by the end. Alas, I was not.

I used to hate Woody Allen

I am sure my dislike of Woody Allen stems from my mother. She can’t stand him, and I have clear childhood memories of her saying so. “Yuk, he’s so icky,” she’d say, screwing up her face. As a child that stuff gets in there and it sticks. I grew up hating Woody Allen.

In my 20s I discovered the Manhattan Murder Mystery, which I loved. Perhaps because it is Allen’s homage to the Thin Man Films of the 30s with William Powell and Myrna Loy – and as a university film student, I had chewed through those voraciously in a matter of weeks.

Bullets Over Broadway delighted me, and I fell more in love with Dianne Wiest (an ‘affair’ that started with Footloose) who was bold and sexy. “Don’t speak,” she’d cry with that throaty voice, as she seduced John Cusack. Delicious.

Mighty Aphrodite converted me completely; the Greek Drama intrusions appealed to the thespian in me, and Mira Sorvino is brilliantly vague as Linda. At the impressionable age of 26 I had to admit that, “Yes, he is a little icky, but Woody Allen is a creative genius”.

These films were guilty pleasures, and I usually watched alone. I didn’t know how to tell my mother that I had been converted to the ways of Woody. Her echoing words remain, however, and to this day I prefer his films in which he does not appear.

Sadly, I hit a Woody wall in 1996. I went with much anticipation to Everyone Says I Love You. It sucked. Enough said. I returned with hope to De-constructing Harry, which was pretty good, and Melinda and Melinda, which I enjoyed. Some years down the track we arrive at Match Point.

I know I may be alone, but I must confess I did not like Match Point. By the end I didn’t care about any of the characters, particularly the protagonist, and hoped they would all die/get caught. I thought it should have been called What’s the Point?

I left Woody for a while, skipping Scoop and Cassandra’s Dream to return to the fold with Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

I LOVE THIS FILM. I would be so bold as to say that it is in my Top Ten. VCB is passionate, hilarious, dark, heart-breaking, sexy, and poses many pertinent questions about life and love – questions that we must all ponder at some point.

When Penelope Cruz won the Oscar for her portrayal of Maria Elena, a crazed and impassioned woman, I jumped up and down in my living room, and I cried. She was outstanding in this role, and she credits Woody Allen for showing her that she could be this dark and intense.

More recently I was introduced to a quirky wonder of the Romantic Comedy canon. “Have you seen Annie Hall?” asked my film-loving man. “Um, no.” I made a scrunched up face reminiscent of my mother’s. “Oh my God, we have to watch Annie Hall!”

I cannot imagine why I was so reticent. I knew I liked – no, loved – Woody films, so why didn’t I want to see this one, his masterpiece? And then I realized it is because he is the romantic lead in Annie Hall, and he is, well, icky.

I told Ben I would give it 20 minutes, so we started watching on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Brilliant. Hilarious. Moving. Brilliant.

If you can watch the scene where he goes over to her apartment to kill the spider(s) in the bathroom – “Honey, there’s a spider the size of a Buick in your bathroom!” – and not laugh, you must be dead.

–Clumsy, non-existent segue–

As Ben and I lay in bed this morning, talking about how much we didn’t want to get up, and I spied THIS on the ceiling:

Deadly Bedroom Spider
Deadly Bedroom Spider

I then sent my man to do what men must do: kill the spider.

“Do you want to use my stool,” I offered. (I have a little step stool for the kitchen, so I can reach the flour cannister and the good wine.)

“You want me to kill the spider with your stool?” Was he crazy? Then my stool would have spider guts on it!

“No! I want you to stand on my stool and squish it with a tissue, like a real man!”

And so he did.

My hero
My hero

I realize that we’re not quite Woody Allen and Diane Keaton. But watching Ben save me from certain death with a tissue took me back to Woody doing the same for Diane (only he used a tennis racket). Just thinking about that scene makes me laugh.

Yes, I used to hate Woody Allen. Not anymore.