Love lessons from the movies

Here’s how to fix your love life with four great movies. DVDs and notebooks at the ready, class…

By Jane Hoskyn

Love lesson 1: Don’t undersell yourself
Movie: Jerry Maguire
Oscar: Won best supporting actor; nominated for actor, screenplay, editing and film (1997)
Renee Zellweger’s mousey mum Dorothy spends much of this movie in unrequited love with her boss, mouthy sports agent Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise, still in 90s dreamboat mode). The plot gets a bit complicated, but never mind – in the end, Jerry confesses his love for Dorothy and we all go “ahh”.
The lesson here is: don’t assume that the object of your affections is out of your league. Confidence (not arrogance) is the ultimate pulling weapon, and we can all achieve it. It’s not necessarily about looks – it’s about self-respect and understanding what you’ve got to offer.
To get some confidence of your own, start by faking it. Walk tall, and practice a relaxed posture that radiates the sense that you’re happy in your skin and in people’s company.
Ban the phrase “out of my league”. Defeatist assumptions doom you to dating failure, and they also give you terrible forehead-wrinkles. Think positive, throw back your shoulders, and go get ‘em.

Love lesson 2: How to escape the Friend Zone
Movie: When Harry Met Sally
Oscar: Nominated for best screenplay (1990)
Harry and Sally are first thrown together when she gives him a lift to New York after university. They become friends and stay friends over the years, until finally they admit undying love and waltz off into the sunset.
Getting out of the so-called Friend Zone is no mean feat. Comedian Chris Rock bases a whole routine on the idea that male-female friends are failed male-female lovers – and that there’s no going back.
Don’t listen to Chris. Listen to When Harry Met Sally. It’s perfectly possible to go from friends to lovers – even if, like Harry and Sally, you once had a misjudged one-night stand that nearly derailed your friendship forever.
The first tip is to spend lots of social time with your friend. If you get the feeling they’d rather see less of you, back off. If not, try flirting a bit more: show genuine interest in their chatter, and make eye contact when they talk. If all’s going well, start expressing yourself more physically. Touch their arm; hug them more slowly.
If they seem responsive to any of your flirt-moves, it’s time to do as Harry does: seize the day and let them know how you feel. It’s a risk, of course. If they don’t reciprocate, it could derail your friendship. But what have you got to lose? Being in unrequited love with your platonic friend is ultimately torture, and life’s too short not to know where you stand.

Love lesson 3: Don’t stick to a ‘type’
Movie: Something’s Gotta Give
Oscar: Nominated for best actress (2004)
Here we have 70s Oscar icons Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson getting it on (eventually) and showing us that life begins at 60.
Jack’s character Harry is an oversexed curmudgeon who only ever dates trophy girlfriends several decades his junior. One day he has a heart attack at the house of his latest girlfriend’s mum Erica (Keaton). Harry reluctantly finds himself housebound with “old woman” Erica – who tickles the fancy of young doc Keanu Reeves. Harry promptly realises that Erica’s actually a bit of a sort.
Most of us share Harry’s bad habits: only wanting what we can’t have, assuming that younger means better, sticking to a “type”. Such pickiness does no-one any favours. By holding out for Mr or Ms Perfect, you may be missing out on Mr or Ms Right.
Sticking to a type also lures you into a trap of serial dating addiction, where you never find anyone who’s “quite right”. Also, if your type is an angel 10 years younger than you, why do you think it never works out? Ditch your preconceptions and broaden your remit. You’ve got nothing to lose by going on a date with someone different – you may be pleasantly surprised.

Love lesson 4: How to break up the right way
Movie: Casablanca
Oscar: Won best film, director, screenplay; nominated for best actor, supporting actor, cinematography, editing, music (1944)
Exiled American Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) runs the hot nightspot in World War II Casablanca. Resistance hero Victor Laszlo turns up seeking help – accompanied by wife Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), Rick’s former love. Fancy! Rick still loves sexy Ilsa, Ilsa still loves sexy Rick, but Ilsa’s hitched to dependable Laszlo… whom will she choose?
You know the ending, of course. As the plane gets ready to rumble, Rick tells the weeping Ilsa to skidaddle with Laszlo. He’s way too cool to show that he’s devastated, Rick tells her: “We’ll always have Paris.”
Among its many qualities, Casablanca is an object lesson in how to dump someone in a way that guarantees love and respect from your ex forever. And which makes you look really cool.
Make like Bogey. Don’t wimp out. Tell your lover face-to-face – phone calls and emails are for cowards. Leave them with something positive. “We’ll always have Paris” may be pushing it, especially if you’ve never been to Paris. Let them know what a great person they are, and how they deserve more than you can give them. Stay firm. Be clear. Put them on that plane. No meeting up a couple of weeks later to pick open old wounds. Clean break. Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.