General 2-2-2005

Alternative Valentines

Not in the mood for corny romantic comedies this Valentine’s Day? Check out our best offbeat recommendations.


Wild at Heart

Directed by David Lynch

MGM Entertainment

Lighting a match has never looked as cool and seductive as it does in David Lynch’s erotic road-trip fairytale Wild at Heart. In love and on the run, Sailor (Nicolas Cage) and Lula (Laura Dern) make their way west across the southern states after Lula’s mother (excellently played by Dern’s mother, Dianne Ladd) puts out a hit on Sailor. The journey, punctuated by provocatively orchestrated sex (enhanced on camera with light manipulation), ends with a meeting with one of cinema’s creepiest villains, Bobby Peru (Willem Dafoe). In this world that’s “wild at heart and weird on top,” only the good witch can help the star-crossed lovers reach a happy ending. –Eric Arima

Heavenly Creatures

Directed by Peter Jackson


Before ascending to the movie-geek pantheon with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, director Peter Jackson explored the darker side of fantasy in this 1994 tale of love, death and obsession. Based on a true story, set in 1950s New Zealand, Heavenly Creatures traces the relationship between glamorous Juliet (Kate Winslet) and awkward new-kid Pauline (Melanie Lynskey). The pair are schoolmates who quickly become best friends, creating an elaborate fantasy world based on their shared love of fairytale romance and Orson Welles. As they drift closer and closer to becoming lovers, though, the pressure from parents and teachers to keep them apart intensifies; the solution they devise is shocking, even in these enlightened times. Aside from the compelling story, the film is worth a look as a look into Jackson’s development as a director–his painstakingly constructed glimpses of Pauline and Juliet’s baroque play-world clearly presage his LOTR work–and as a record of Winslet’s finest pre-Eternal Sunshine oddball-romance performance. –Matt Konrad


Directed by Steven Shainberg

Lion’s Gate

Secretary is a surprisingly sweet S&M love story with creepy-yet-attractive James Spader and ingenue Maggie Gyllenhaal cast as dominant and submissive respectively. Gyllenhaal is an innocent but troubled young woman, recently released from inpatient mental health treatment. She’s looking for a boring, safe job and the security of being told what to do. Spader, a quietly cruel but vulnerable lawyer, just happens to be looking for a secretary to micromanage. As the two work together, they find they have mutually attractive emotional damage, and discover their unusual proclivities are perfectly matched. Gyllenhaal and Spader are an unexpectedly electric couple; the sex scenes are understated, erotically charged and delightfully twisted. If it’s an unconventional fairy tale you’re looking for, this gently defiant celebration of untraditional love offers a refreshing, witty twist on the usual Cinderella story. –Susannah McNeely


Directed by Patty Jenkins

Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment

Although widely billed as a biopic of executed serial killer Aileen (“Lee”) Wuornos, Monster could be better described as a cautionary tale constructed around the relationship between Lee and her heavily fictionalized lover, Selby Wall. Lee (played by Charlize Theron, recipient of critical props for her convincing ugliness in this role) is a longtime highway prostitute who, after trying unsuccessfully to straighten out her life, begins killing men in order to preserve herself and her relationship with Selby (an authentically innocent, mullet-headed Christina Ricci). Of course, the relationship takes a tragic turn (in case staging a number of brutal murders isn’t quite distressing enough). The main idea that emerges from this heavily-tailored account of love and murder is that the real root of Lee Wuornos’s killing spree is her unhealthy acceptance of a romantic middle-school mantra: “All you need is love and to believe in yourself.” That, and apparently, a gun. –Suzanne Shaffer

Sex and Lucia (Lucía el sexo)

Directed by Julio Medem

Palm Pictures

Sex and Lucia is a movie just made for couples, especially those couples that don’t exactly make sense. The plot is convoluted and at times, yes, tiresome. But the Mediterranean locations and acting are exquisite; the early love scenes are so full of fun. The couple’s laughing as much as panting. First the story seems simple: here is Lucia (Paz Vega); she has a lot of sex. Lucia reads a book by Lorenzo (Tristán Uloa), loves it, then decides she loves him; seeks him, and they live together. Until Lorenzo discovers he has a daughter, the product of a one-night moonlight escapade. This is where the plot gets thick, and the movie drifts. All the same, Paz Vega holds it together with her over-bite smile and strong–even while nude–stride. Watch this movie with a lover–like curly hair in the morning, it is a beautiful mess. –Nate Cuellar

Wanna finish reading the rest of our picks? Visit our website at to find out where you can pick up a copy of Ruminator in your neighborhood!