There is some sort of holiday this Friday, I’m told.
And in an attempt to get some views on my blog for writing something topical, I’m gonna weigh in on Hallmark’s most polarizing holiday. I could use this opportunity to whine about 23 years of lonely 14ths of February, but I don’t need to go all Anakin Skywalker on you, because that’s on me, not you.
What I can do for you, though, is make a suggestion on what to watch, for, no doubt, you are likely fiddling around right now trying to figure out what you’re going to do on Valentine’s Day with your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend or that cutie that sits next to you in your Arts and Humanities class or, that bottle of wine or that fifth of whiskey that you’ve been saving for a special night alone. Many of you will pick a festive movie to sit down and watch and I know what you’re deliberating between: should you guys watch that Meg Ryan flick you’ve seen a million times or that crappy British romantic comedy where the two main characters are just too good looking for each other, they spend the whole movie looking for ways they’re not the perfect match? The rest of you movie-viewing lovebirds are trying to figure out if there’s a chance in hell that “Winter’s Tale” is gonna be worth the 4 dollar popcorn, let alone the 11 dollar ticket (spoiler alert: it won’t be).
Put all of that side, though, because I’ve got the love film of the 20th century for you to watch this Valentine’s Day:
“He’s every nobody whoever needed somebody.”
Wait! Please! Don’t exit out. Keep reading, because I’m not kidding. In fact, if you’re scrunching your eyebrow and letting out a loud “pffft” at the idea that “Rocky” is one of the most romantic movies ever created, it’s because you’ve never seen it. I’m always amazed how many people—people my age, in particular—have never seen “The Godfather” and have never seen “Rocky”, yet they always go on to give an opinion about it. But “Rocky”, much like “The Godfather”, is as good of a film as everyone gave it credit for back in the day. Fresh out of the New Hollywood, Italian-American film world, Sylvester Stallone’s precious baby, “Rocky”, rocked the film world. A truly American tale, littered with referential cinema, great performances, palpable Philadelphia settings, and an iconic shot that would make every studio in Hollywood want to get their hands on a steadicam. “Rocky” stands as strong today as it did back in the year of this country’s bicentennial. Oh, and how can I forget Bill Conti’s immaculate score:
The problem is: you all see it differently than audiences did in 1976, because the film was followed by 5 sequels, a few of them too over-the-top to take seriously. In addition to that, Sylvester Stallone didn’t exactly have the acting career that Robert DeNiro or Al Pacino had after their success in “The Godfather” franchise. That being said, if Sly had decided to leave films forever after “Rocky”, we’d all be talking about how Sylvester Stallone is the Harper Lee of American cinema.
So what am I even rambling about here? Hmph. For those of you in the camp of not having seen “Rocky” or haven’t sat through the whole thing in like 10 years or so, let me lay it out for you: “Rocky” is a love story. Plain and simple. Before it became about topically genius collaboration soundtracks, long-form montages and 80’s robots, “Rocky” was, simply, about a poor, lonely, Philadelphian trying to win the affection of the shy woman working at the corner pet shop. In the backdrop of all of the yucky romance is a story about a washed-up coulda-been boxer and his trainer, who are given an incredible opportunity to prove themselves on a national stage.
But it’s not really about boxing. Without spoiling too much for those who haven’t seen it: there are some really awesome, inspirational scenes in this movie to the physically active. There are theories of boxing and fighting discussed. There are also many well-articulated plot points to this film that illustrate how Davids can ever compete with Goliaths. But when you go back and watch this film, it’s truly fascinating how much boxing there isn’t in this movie, especially considering how much there is in the sequels to follow.
Instead, “Rocky” shows us a bare bones love story. Not that Hugh Grant crap. This is a story about imperfect people in an absolutely imperfect 1970s Philadelphia. There are no Capulets and Montagues in this story. There isn’t a Ryan Gosling or an Amy Adams in this film, either. And our lovers in this film aren’t having deep discussions about the mysteries of life or the problems of society because they are too busy trying to make it through their day-to-day. “Rocky” is a love story with warts and all.
Rocky isn’t the smartest. He’s not the funniest. Adrian barely talks and she isn’t conventionally beautiful. He works for mob bosses when he’s not getting chump change for amateaur boxing and she deals with bird poop every day. What the two have in common is they’ve always been told by people their whole lives that they can’t be someone, and it’s through Rocky’s match with Apollo Creed that he can prove to both of them: if he goes the distance with Apollo, he will finally be somebody. The kicker is at the end of the match when Rocky realizes that it’s his love for Adrian, all along, that makes him somebody.
So, look: I know you guys really want to watch “Empire Strikes Back” because the Han/Leia thing is so goddam adorable, but you’ve seen that movie a million times. “Empire” and “When Harry Met Sally” will always be there. This Valentine’s Day, give “Rocky” a try.
You may fall in love.