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Date movies make a return

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Let me be the first single woman to thank Hollywood for bringing back the date movie. Everyone’s talking about the return of the modern romance. But as a dating expert — who was once taken to see Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown on a blind date — I’d like to offer my humble but clinical analysis of the genre’s revival.

The studios claim there is a method to their madness: The enormous successes of Ghost (which grossed over $200 million) and Pretty Woman (over $178 million) have reaffirmed the box office power of, respectively, the bittersweet love story and the Cinderella fairy tale. But I think there’s a simpler reason: Dating — real dating, ’50s-style dating — is back. Blind dates have resurfaced as a primary mode of courtship, and a Wednesday-night phone call is again a procedural requirement before a Saturday rendezvous. Young, single movie executives are green-lighting projects perfect for romantic evenings.

But be warned: A date movie today isn’t what you might think. Sometimes the perfect catalyst for an evening of love and laughter is not as blatantly sentimental as a revival of Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. Here’s an insider’s guide to some of the best playing right now — and some of the choices may surprise you.

Switch
Ellen Barkin and Jimmy Smits are no Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, but this is the kind of quirky, cross-gender love story that could fuel some passionate battles between the sexes. Why do you think they made Woman of the Year in the first place?

Sleeping With the Enemy
It might be hard for some women (myself, for one) to watch Julia Roberts because they still haven’t gotten over how great she looked with Richard Gere at the polo grounds. But heart-stopping lion-and-mouse chase scenes always lead to some ”accidental” clinches.

Defending Your Life
Look at it this way: If ethereal beauty Meryl Streep can fall in love with neurotic-but-lovable Everyman Albert Brooks, there’s certainly hope for the two of you.

Impromptu
Opting for a historical romance about George Sand and Frédéric Chopin is a savvy move when you’re trying to prove you’re much more than just another ’90s philistine — or cause your date intellectual palpitations.

Spartacus
Another classy choice, and what better way to flaunt your grasp of Hollywood history? Intermission will be a good time to discuss the movie’s political subtext and comment on Stanley Kubrick’s professional development (not to mention the infamous bathtub rubdown of Laurence Olivier by Tony Curtis). The quixotic love scenes between Kirk Douglas and Jean Simmons don’t hurt, either.

Truth or Dare
Though this may be just a bit too much Madonna for a first date, it might provide you a golden opportunity to see just how open-minded your beloved is. Madonna’s self-portrait, combining rock-hard Bette Davis and baby-soft Marilyn Monroe, is sure to land you in a heated debate about how alluring — or intimidating — self-reliant women really are.

The Silence of the Lambs
Maybe cannibalism and violent images of serial killers don’t inspire thoughts of wine and roses. But that’s the point. This chilling tale will send you straight out of your seats and into each other’s arms. (A sure bet for a third or fourth date when the Move has yet to be made.)

Dances With Wolves
The true test of a flowering relationship. Can you sit quietly next to someone for the same amount of time it would take you to fly from New York to Key West?

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