I want to believe in love, but the movies are giving me a tough time. In The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2, Kristen Stewart finally becomes a vampire, which means that she gets a bad dye job, gallons of glistening, extra-gloppy mascara, and a tight blue cocktail dress. She also stops eating solid food and sleeping, so she basically turns into a Real Housewife of Beverly Hills, only less terrifying. In the Twilight films, the hair and makeup have always been challenging. Michael Sheen, as the snitty leader of the evil Volturi clan, sports a low, dense Eddie Munster hairline, and Peter Facinelli, as a loving, platinum blond vampire dad, looks like he’s about to play Rolfe in a community-theater production of The Sound of Music.
In Twilight-land, becoming a vampire is an ultimate romantic fantasy, because Kristen and her beloved, who’s played by Robert Pattinson, are eternally young and rich and can make rafter-rattling love for hours at a time; they can do everything Donald Trump claims he can do. This final installment ends with Kristen and Robert cuddling in a field of purple wildflowers, and pledging to stay together forever. But Kristen and Robert have become a couple in real life as well, and I kept thinking about how Kristen had cheated on Robert with the married director of one of her other movies, and I wondered: If Hollywood stars can’t stay faithful, do vampires even stand a chance?
I fled to Anna Karenina, the classic tale of a spoiled Russian wife who cheats on her devoted husband and pays a tragic price. This latest version is very stylized, as if the story is taking place at least partially on stage, and the actors are relentlessly choreographed. But while the gowns and jewels are sumptuous, I began to feel like I was trapped inside the world’s most endless Estée Lauder ad, complete with sunlit meadows, sparkling chandeliers, and lovely women racing down miles of hallways and through boxwood mazes. Keira Knightley plays Anna, and while she’s every bit as gorgeous as in her Chanel campaign, her strong jaw and her mounds of ringleted hair make her look like Helena Bonham Carter’s more wholesome kid sister, bred with a cocker spaniel. Keira’s lover, Count Vronsky, is played by a studly young actor, except his artfully curled bangs and his wet bulging eyes started to remind me of Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein.
I was getting desperate, so I turned to Silver Linings Playbook, which includes an unlikely romance between Bradley Cooper, as a bipolar guy fresh out of a mental hospital, and Jennifer Lawrence, as a feisty young widow. I love Bradley and Jennifer, but they’re both a little glossy to be playing folks from a blue-collar Philly neighborhood, and their 15-year age difference started to feel a little creepy, especially when Jennifer curled up in Bradley’s lap. I started to think about the secondary love match in Twilight, where Taylor Lautner, as Jacob, the spunky little werewolf, is somehow imprinted on Kristen and Robert’s new baby, who grows up unnaturally fast so that she and Taylor can start dating. In some upcoming rom-com, maybe Patrick Dempsey or Josh Duhamel can carry around a petri dish containing a just-fertilized egg, which they can introduce to people as their hot new girlfriend.
I checked out Lincoln, which is Steven Spielberg’s terrific movie starring my spiritual husband, Daniel Day-Lewis, as Honest Abe, and Daniel is folksy and steadfast and totally adorable; he’s like Andy Griffith in a stovepipe hat. The movie is fascinating and stirring, but the love story between Daniel and his First Lady, played by Sally Field, is very fraught. Instead of being vibrant and sexy, like the Kennedys or the Obamas, the Lincolns were very damaged; some historians say that Abe might have been secretly gay and Mary Todd Lincoln might have been manic-depressive, like most Republican couples.
Finally, I found my answer, my proof that love can blossom under even the most impossible circumstances, in Life of Pi. Pi is an exuberant Indian teenager who survives a shipwreck, only to find himself trapped on a lifeboat with a snarling tiger named Richard Parker, who’s my ultimate S&M love object, because he’s brutal, sexy, and emotionally withholding. Life of Pi is like Fifty Shades of Grey with teeth, paws, and stripes. Pi and Richard have to somehow live together while battling the elements — and Richard’s desire to maul and devour Pi — and while their relationship never gets sappy, it becomes a love story. There’s a heartbreaking moment near the end of the movie that made me decide that all men are animals, and that no matter how much you pine for them, all they really want to do is eat, sleep, and poop in the jungle.
But ultimately, if I had to choose between a dreamy vampire, our greatest president, and even Bradley Cooper in sweatpants, I’d still want to become Mrs. Richard Parker, or at least his lunch, if you ask me.