Best Dysfunctional Relationships in Genre Films -

Valentine's Day Maniac Special

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Best Dysfunctional Relationships in Genre Films

Lessons Learned in the Pursuit of Love

By Liana Aghajanian     February 14, 2009

Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling definitely deserve a mention in our Valentines' Day Special: Dysfunctional Relationships in Genre Films
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Dysfunctional relationships on film sometimes reveal more about a character than we'd like to know, or perhaps hinder us in discovering what we should know. Let these movies be a guide to you on this- the day of love, to help guide you on the road to happiness.
1.     Jack and Wendy - The Shining (1980)
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. If only Wendy had known before she had married this raging ghost-possessed psycho killer.  (Note: Ladies, sign a pre-nup) On top of the fact that Jack (Jack Nicholson) is a recovering alcoholic who has on occasion, takes his aggression out on their creepy-ghost seeing-telepathic, Danny. With his foul temper and zero-tolerance attitude, not to mention his menacing features, Jack is the furthest thing from the perfect man. Chasing his wife around a vacant hotel, it’s almost too late before Wendy (Shelley Duvall) realizes the severity of Jack’s level of insanity. She manages to escape his grips and save her son while Jack dies out in a hedge maze.
Valentine’s Day Lesson: Keep a relationship healthy by getting out more.
2.      Clarice Starling and Dr. Hannibal Lecter - Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Where do I even begin with this tale of cannibalistic murderer Dr. Hannibal Lecter and the relationship he develops with Clarice Starling, an FBI student in training.
Silence of the Lambs, based on the novel by Thomas Harris, Clarice Starling (Jodi Foster) is pulled from her training at an FBI Academy to interrogate Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), a psychiatrist that might ask you to lie down on the couch before he decides to have you for dinner. Clarice has come to interview Lecter about information he might have on an active serial killer named Buffalo Bill; however he only agrees to fork over information if Clarice provides the painful memories of her past to him. So begins one of the most dysfunctional relationships the screen has ever seen. Lecter and Clarice exchange information in the form of clues, all the while respecting each other. When Lecter escapes prison, Clarice knows that he won’t come after her because he “would consider it rude.” Sure, Clarice, whatever you say.
Valentine’s Day Lesson: Intimacy is about trust.
3.     Madeline Ashton/Dr. Ernest Menville/Helen Sharp - Death Becomes Her (1992)
Bruce Willis, Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn shine in this cult classic about the pursuit for eternal life and beauty, all while backstabbing, blackmailing and hating each other. The series of events that unravel this three-way dysfunctional relationship begin when Madeline deliberately steals away Helen’s fiancé, plastic surgeon Ernest Menville and marries him. Helen falls into a depression and is placed in a mental institution all the while thinking of a way to get back at her frienenemy. Madeline on the other hand, has been married to Ernest, who has become alcoholic and is absolutely miserable in his marriage. When Madeline and Helen discover the secret to boosting their appearance and prolonging their life, the epic battle over Ernest begins right where it left off. Initially, Ernest agrees to plot Madeline’s death with Helen, but when Madeline and Helen begin violently fighting (shotguns, shovels and all), Ernest realizes he’s better off without either of them. In true dysfunctional fashion, Madeline and Helen reconcile and realize that not only are they doomed to spend eternity tending to their altered bodies, but they have to spend it tending to each other.
Valentine’s Day Lesson: If you can’t be with the one you want, love the one you’re with
4.     David Aames/Julianna Gianni - Vanilla Sky (2001)
Publisher David Aames (Tom Cruise) has everything going for him- a great job, good friends and even a new love interest named Sofia Serrano (Penelope Cruz). David takes an immediate liking to Sofia and the two are on the brink of developing a relationship until Julianna Gianni (Cameron Diaz), David’s mentally unstable and jealous ex-girlfriend discovers his feelings for Sofia. One day, she offers him a ride. Soon enough, the delusional Julianna starts to drive erratically and proclaim that because they’ve slept together a number of times, David’s body has made a promise to her. While David tries to calm her down by telling her he loves her, but the pseudo-proclamation comes too late as she runs her car off a bridge dying and leaving David with a face-full of deformities that shatter his confidence- forcing him to wear a goofy mask.
Valentine’s Day Lesson: Find appropriate places to deal with relationship issues.
5.     Craig and Lotte Schwartz/Maxine Lund - Being John Malkovich (1999)
Craig (John Cusack), an unsuccessful puppeteer who lives out his fantasies through the eyes of his puppets, and Lotte (Cameron Diaz), his animal-obsessed wife aren’t exactly your typical couple. When Craig starts a new job, he discovers a portal that leads him inside the mind of the actor John Malkovich. As he becomes increasingly enamored with his co-worker Maxine (Catherine Keener) who rejects his advances, he finds that the only way to keep her attention is to reveal the portal to her. Lotte finds out about the portal and is ecstatic at the opportunity to experience life as man. Maxine beings to realize that she is in love with Lotte when she’s inside Malkovich and the two begin to develop a serious relationship. When Craig realizes that his object of desire Maxine is actually in love with his wife which he can barely stand, he captures and ties up Lotte and assumes her identity inside Malkovich. The story only gets more inappropriate from there on out, including Craig’s plans to stay in Malkovich indefinitely, marrying Maxine (who is now pregnant) and finally ending up in the body of Maxine’s baby, forced to watch Lotte and Maxine live out there life together.
Valentine’s Day Lesson: Be yourself
6.     Gollum and Smeagol- Lord of the Rings Trilogy
He loves the ring, A LOT. He thinks it’s precious. He needs it, he wants it, and is determined to let nothing (including himself) get in the way of having it. Possessed by two personalities, Gollum and Smeagol (Andy Serkis) have a love/hate relationship with each other. While Smeagol tries to instill moments of compassion and sincerity in himself, Gollum’s only concern is holding on to the precious ring that has poisoned his mind for hundreds of years, at any cost. Though he agrees to lead hobbits Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) and Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astim) into Mordor, he is constantly at odds with his decision to be faithful to the hobbits or trick them to get his precious ring back in his grips. “You don’t have any friends, nobody likes you!” Gollum says to Smeagol in The Two Towers. “Master looks after us now. We don’t need you anymore,” Smeagol replies. They say a person’s true character is revealed when you travel with them. With a long journey ahead, Sam and Frodo get double the trouble with multi-personality sufferer Gollum.
Valentine’s Day Lesson: Materialism doesn’t buy you happiness.
7.     Beetlejuice and Lydia - Beetle Juice (1988)
In this 1988 Tim Burton classic, Michael Keaton stars as Beetlejuice, the bio-exorcist mistakenly called upon by the recently deceased Maitlands in an effort to exercise their house of the Deetzs, a peculiar family who has just moved in after the Maitlands died in a car accident. Repulsive, disgusting and cunning, Beetlejuice’s only interest lies in marrying Lydia (Winona Ryder), the Deetz’s daughter, in order to live among, well, the living. Beetlejuice pursues Lydia relentlessly, while she eventually, with the help of the Maitlands, manages to banish him to the after life, but not before he arranges for her to marry him, red dress, wedding ring and all. Fortunately for her, the marriage falls through, as does Beetlejuice - straight to the afterlife where he belongs.
Valentine’s Day Lesson: No means no.
8.     Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)
Directed by Robert Mamoulian in 1931, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, based on the novel by Robert Louise Stevenson focuses on the relationship between Dr. Jekyll and his alter ego, Mr. Hyde (both portrayed by Fredric March). While Dr. Jekyll is a well-respected and level-headed man, Mr. Hyde is the complete opposite, revealing the darkest side of human nature with this violent acts of brutality. Naturally, evil Mr. Hyde is hated by all, while kind Dr. Jekyll is surrounded by friends. Although Dr. Jekyll is a good natured man, he is plagued with his dual personalities and separates them by drinking a chemical solution. Essentially, Mr. Hyde is the deepest darkest part of Dr. Jekyll that he has tried so hard to suppress. The story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has turned out to be the archetype for characters on film and off film that struggle with themselves.
Valentine’s Day Lesson: You must love yourself first before you can love someone else.
9.     Edward and Kim - Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Edward (Johnny Depp) is the sweetest, most courteous and kindhearted boy you’ll ever meet. He’s almost perfect, except the fact that he has scissors for hands. Although he’s been living out of the public eye, Peggy, a local Avon lady decides to integrate him into society after she discovers Edward on a door-to-door sales venture. After moving in with Peggy’s family, Edward falls head over heels for Peggy’s daughter Kim (Winona Ryder). Hey, everyone needs to be loved, with or without scissor hands! After Kim’s jock boyfriend attacks Edward in a fit of rage and he’s driven back to his mansion, she realizes she’s in love with him too. Of course, it takes her the entire span of the film to realize this. It is later revealed that Kim and Edward never did live happily ever after, although Edward is still alive. Kim refuses to visit him because she wants Edward to remember her the way she was.
Valentine’s Day Lesson: Don’t date guys with scissors for hands
10. Sam Wheat and Molly Jensen – Ghost (1990)
Sam loves Molly. Molly loves Sam. They’re both in a happy relationship together, except there’s one problem: Sam doesn’t like to utter the three un-manly words that could make or break a relationship: “I love you”. After Sam (Patrick Swayze) is shot and murdered by a hit man hired by a conniving, he realizes he is only present in spirit. Fearing Molly (Demi Moore) is in danger, Sam encounters a “medium” named Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg) who discovers much to her surprise, that she can communicate with Sam.  To cut a long story short, Sam uses Oda Mae’s body to share a few tender moments with Molly and bam! – the Righteous Brothers laced pottery scene is born. After Sam saves Molly from impending danger, he’s finally free to leave to the afterlife and is visible to Molly. On his way to the light, he tells Molly what she waited a lifetime to hear, “I love you.” Typical isn’t it, it’s only when they leave that they can say “I love you.”
Valentine’s Day Lesson: Let her know you are thinking about her, even if you’re dead.


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