Pajiba's Guide to Third-Date Flicks
Pajiba's Guide to What's Good for You / Dustin Rowles
Guides | July 15, 2006 | Comments ()
Never underestimate the importance of third dates, folks. Third dates are where long-term determinations are made, where a relationship crystallizes, where you find out if the guy with perfectly mussed hair and a slobber-free kissing ability actually has something under the hood. While first dates test physical attraction, and second dates allow you, in varying degrees, to act upon that attraction, it is the third date where actual personalities are revealed. While first and second dates generally take place in public — restaurants, bars, movie theaters, or (for the luckier) park benches after last call — third dates tend to take shape on living-room couches, accompanied by light spirits, take-out, and DVDs.
Indeed, in many relationships, the figurative “third date” is where each partner presents his or her defining movie, the one film that epitomizes your personality — the piece of pop culture you put out there to reveal your essence, man. Back in the ’60s and ’70s, I suspect these dates took place in front of a record player, where songs were traded back and forth and couples quickly learned that Bob Dylan and Donna Summer could not co-exist. Today, in a technological world replete with rewind, pause, and DVD bonus features, it is the couch (or futon) where these defining moments are made, and where Bruckheimer can ruin a relationship or Alexander Payne can make it.
This is why, in our first “Pajiba’s Guide to What’s Good for You,” column, I offer you a handy-dandy guide to third-date movies, and what they mean to the future of your relationships.
The Rain on My Car is a Baptism, the New Me, Ice Man, Power Lloyd, My Assault on the World Begins Now: A guy can almost never go wrong with pre-2001 John Cusack — Say Anything or High Fidelity says sensitive yet masculine, culturally aware yet unpretentious, and Fidelity’s credit-rolling Stevie Wonder number, “I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)” provides the ideal segue from love seat to fold-out couch. Grosse Pointe Blanke also offers a subversive twist to the Cusack canon, suggesting all of the above, but with some added baggage: He’s cool, musically inclined, but his relationships inexplicably fall apart under the weight of his past. If he offers you Shakabuku, however, politely decline and make your excuses.
What if Andy Gets Another Dinosaur? I Don’t Think I Can Take that Kind of Rejection: If she presents anything animated (Pixar or Disney 2-D), you’re looking for a world of hurt; you may as well resolve now to condom-littered doormat status. A woman who offers up Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Toy Story, or Finding Nemo is either hopelessly naïve or more likely an overcompensating sex fiend, and she’s probably going to end up sleeping with your best friend, your roommate, and the guy down the street before your relationship ultimately crumbles while the two of you are stuck in the same apartment trying to screw your way through all of your acquaintances. It’s an ugly scene, folks. And if you go through it, Lady and the Tramp will never be the same.
You Rush a Miracle Man, You Get Rotten Miracles: Conversely, if your potential girlfriend pops in Sleepless with Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, The Princess Bride, or When Harry Met Sally, she’s not only kind of bland, but she’s angling for a ring. Not only does she have a hankering for a long-term commitment, but she’s got ridiculously high hopes for your relationship, and you may as well give it up now, man, cause all the Cusackian affectations in the world won’t live up to her lofty expectations. Still, all is not lost — if Sally from JDate hooks up with a Capra Guy (discussed below), there is hope yet.
I am the Muffin: If either partner sticks in Truffaut, David Lynch, Von Trier, Bertolucci, Malick or anyone else of their ilk, someone is already trying too hard to impress — if he/she is actually an intellectual heavyweight, there is no need to bother with Le Crime de Monsieur Lange unless he/she is out to prove something or he/she is an asshole movie critic (or film student) and, trust me, you don’t want to go there. Roman Polanski, Jean-Luc Godard, foreign films, and documentaries might suggest a high level of intelligence, but they’re not good third-date choices unless you’re trying to scare away your Ashton Kutcher types or sleep with one of your grad students, who feign interest to procure an A in your class. Don’t get me wrong: There is something to be said for a cerebral mate, but anyone who discusses auteur theories on a third date probably doesn’t wash his or her hair very often and will likely end up trying to talk you into an “open relationship” at some point. If that’s your bag, more power to you.
Now that I’ve Met You, Would You Object to Never Seeing Me Again?: Anything written or directed by Wes Anderson, Spike Jonze, David O. Russell, Paul Thomas Anderson, or Charlie Kaufman are risky propositions, with equal powers to alienate or ingratiate. Indeed, I would suggest that all of the above filmmakers provide an easy means to screen out potential mates. If you pop in Magnolia and your date is still curled up next to you after frogs have fallen from the sky, you’ve found your soul mate. If, however, your date fell asleep halfway through The Royal Tenenbaums, I’d suggest gnawing off your arm and making for the door before he/she wakes up hoping to watch a Tim Allen or Brittany Murphy flick.
Wow. Look at Me. I’m Not Even Listening to a Word You’re Saying: If you spend your weekends in comic-book stores, playing D&D, or attending “Star Trek” conventions, let’s just be honest, OK: You probably don’t actually have a date. But let’s say, by some unforeseen miracle, you’re lucky enough — with some persistence — to trick Shelly in accounting into coming over to watch a few films with you so long as you promise to sit across the room. OK. First of all: Take a shower. Second, don’t pull out the obvious. The Lord of the Rings and Matrix trilogies are only going to perpetuate the stereotype, and nine hours of hobbits isn’t going to will your date into submission. If you must present that side of yourself, at least rent American Splendor or Ghost World, which suggest a certain amount of geeky self-awareness that can be attractive to the right gal. And listen. OK. Listen hard. Do not, under any circumstances, stick Crumb into your DVD player. That ain’t cool, man. Not cool.
Neo-Maxie-Zoom-Dweebie: The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: Awwwww. Your date is sick and you’re taking care. That’s sweet.
My mouth’s bleeding, Burt! My mouth’s bleeding!: There is a lot to be said for Frank Capra flicks — and you could do a helluva lot worse than a guy who presents It’s a Wonderful Life or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington on the third date (I’d argue that To Kill a Mockingbird also falls into this category). These films suggest a sweet, relatively intelligent guy with his head on his shoulders who works in middle management and will make a helluva Dad someday. But beyond that silver lining is a cloud that’s about to burst wide open — this fella is a weeper, ladies, and that shoulder of yours is gonna get a lot of company in the near future. A Capra guy is thin-skinned as hell; and while a man who cries occasionally — when a child is born, while he’s offering up his vows, or when the Red Sox win the World Series — makes an ideal husband or boyfriend, if he cries at the “beauty of it all,” or every time Jeff Buckley comes on the goddamn radio, you’ve got yourself a Dickens character.
Well, color me happy! There’s a sofa in here for two!: If she drags out anything starring Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Aniston, or Julia Roberts, and he counters with Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, or Will Ferrell — God bless the two of you, you’ll be obliviously happy together for the rest of your lives and neither one of you will ever have to worry your pretty little head about what’s playing at the local indie theater.
You Got to Go through a Lot of Sex to be Ready for Anti-Sex: If she inserts any of the following movies into the DVD player on a third date, you’d best beat a path to a well-lit public place, because you’ve got yourself a lady with some deep-seated anger-issues that probably have nothing to do with you: The First Wives Club, Fatal Attraction, I Shot Andy Warhol, Sleeping with the Enemy, Single White Female, Thelma and Louise, Kill Bill, or any other film in which the female protagonist wields a butcher knife. If you decide to stick around, however, do note that — if you can take it — the sex is going to blow your mind.
She’s Either a Complete Wack Job or The Woman of Your Dreams: Annie Hall.
I’m Sorry, but I Take Little Pleasure in a Ball: If, on a third date, your girlfriend pulls out anything from Merchant Ivory Productions (Howard’s End, The Remains of the Day), anything adapted from a Jane Austen novel, or almost any movie starring Colin Firth, there is probably nothing wrong with her. She’s smart, independent, and literate. In fact, if she’s hot enough, spare her feelings and try to stay awake for God’s sake. If, on the other hand, you’re a guy who actually finds yourself enjoying any of the aforementioned films, you might consider reexamining your heterosexuality and think twice before popping in The Blue Lagoon.
Shut Up and Deal: If you both show up carrying a copy of Billy Wilder’s The Apartment, you’ll never have to endure a third date again.
It’s Not Personal, Sonny. It’s Strictly Business: There is no sense in dragging out anything directed by Spielberg, Zemeckis, Coppola, Scorsese, Ron Howard, Hitchcock, or Tarantino — they’ve all made decent films, but even their best work is largely impersonal. They can make great sixth- or seventh-date films but, on a third date, these just don’t push the relationship forward in any meaningful way. In dating terms, they’re like a great Valentine’s Cards without an inscription. It’s tantamount to adding, “I like long walks with my dog on the beach,” into your online personal ad — that may be true, but seriously, who cares?
Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!: I know, it’s obvious as hell, but if your boyfriend brings to his third date Hoosiers, Remember the Titans, Rudy, The Natural, Miracle, Seabiscuit, Friday Night Lights, or even Rocky, he’s probably well-intentioned enough, but a bit thick-headed. Personally, I’m a sucker for all of them, but they’re not flicks I’m going to bring along to create an impression about myself. The message they send is clear: “I love you, honey. Just don’t go into labor on football Sunday, all right?” Likewise, if your girlfriend offers up Bend it Like Beckham or really any of the above movies, she’s delivering a strong response: “I don’t care how much you love the fucking Yankees — our children are going to be Red Sox fans and, if you can’t handle that, you’d best look elsewhere.”
It’s Cold … So Cold: Here’s a tip for you, guys. If she pulls out Titanic, Legends of the Fall, Edward Scissorhands or The Notebook, she may fall madly in love with you but, in the end, let’s just be honest: you’d be of more use to her dead than alive. She wants a great love story, a passionate romance, and then she wants you to keel over prematurely so she can spend the rest of her days wrapped in Kleenex, reminiscing about the greatest love she’s ever known while reading Mary Higgins Clark novels. If you stick around, though, I’d suggest not going off to war or taking any long boat trips. That’s all I’m saying.
What’s the Point? They’re All the Same: Some Stupid Killer Stalking Some Big-Breasted Girl Who Can’t Act Who is Always Running Up the Stairs When She Should be Running Out the Front Door: If, on a third date, a guy pops in any horror movie (except maybe Donnie Darko), he only wants to get into your skivvies. Horror movies say absolutely nothing about a man’s personality, except that he hopes he can scare the bejesus out of you so he can stay the night and “protect” you from Freddy, Jason, or the Blair Witch. It’s stupid. It’s insulting. And it wrecks the entire third-date premise. It also implies that you’re dating a dumbass who’d presume that you’re not only easily frightened but willing to put out under the threat of an axe-murderer barging into your house at any moment.
I am a Golden God! Since you’ve indulged me so far, allow me to introduce my personal recommendation. First off, if you’re me, and she shows up with Harold and Maude, you’re probably going to end up happily married someday, but you’re going to have to endure a whole helluva lot of Cat Stevens before the man calls you upstairs to tend to the clouds. And while I might counter with one of the Cusack flicks above, if I see true long-term viability to the relationship, there is no better third-date film than Almost Famous. It’s got it all, y’all. It’s a slightly tipsy, 2 a.m.-phone-call kind of movie that introduces the best musical moment in cinematic history, the “Tiny Dancer” bus scene that will buckle your knees, make the hair on your arms salute the gods, and then detonate inside you. Indeed, Almost Famous is the closest you can get to swapping LPs on the tabletop, presenting “River,” “America,” “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters,” “The Wind,” Alvin and the Chipmunks for novelty value, a Skynyrd song that’ll make you forget all about “Freebird,” and a Nancy Wilson score that strikes just the right chord to break your heart. Almost Famous harkens back to a time when music offered salvation instead of an insipid avenue to that faux-hipster vibe and, if you can’t find some sort of romantic symbiosis when Phillip Seymour Hoffmann pronounces that “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone when you’re uncool,” then you don’t belong together. Hell, you may as well go back to watching There’s Something About Mary with your roommate and discussing the secrets to crushing Schlitz cans into your forehead, because that’s where you’re going to be until you find a woman that not only loves Miss Congeniality but has an unironic fondness for Weekend at Bernie’s.
So there you have it. By no means are the aforementioned films meant to be exhaustive of third-date possibilities (others might include Garden State, L.A. Story, The Philadelphia Story, Jeffrey, To Wong Foo, et al.), and I’m all but certain that I’ve missed out on a few of the personality-types suggested by movie choices — but then again, that’s what you folks are for — to remind us of our shortcomings. If you’ve got a bone to pick, or you want to sound off on the defining movie of your relationship, use the comments section below.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives in a blue house with his wife in a hippy colony/college town in upstate New York. You may email him, or leave a comment below.