Weird love: The ten strangest onscreen couples
Love is weird. Most anyone over the age of, say, sixteen or so has at least one story of an ill-fated romance based on the old adage of "opposites attract." Worse, it's usually more "whatever will cause us the most confusion, chaos and, most likely, pain attracts." That's not to say those strange romances can't have happy endings -- or happyish endings, or even just endings where we're happy it's over -- but no matter how they end up, they can make us question who we are, make others question WTF we're doing and endlessly fuel our friends' gossip.
On this Valentine's Day, and in honor of the Esquire showing Hal Ashby's classic odd-couple romance Harold and Maude Friday and Saturday night at midnight, we've compiled this list of film's ten most unusual couples. Some are doomed from the start, some find a way to make it work, but all of them will make you feel better about your own misguided romances. We promise, no matter how outré your affairs may be, these have got you beat. (Note: if you can actually top any/all of these, please contact us asap so we can tell your story.)
10) Harold and Maude from Harold and Maude
It's only natural to kick things off with the couple that inspired the list, the titular pair from Harold and Maude. He's a suicide-obsessed teen with a penchant for elaborate stunts. She's a nearly eighty-year-old proto-Manic Pixie Dream girl who attends funerals for fun. Together they engage on the sweetest, most touching and utterly bizarre May-December romance imaginable (actually, more like a nearly February-December relationship, when you think about it). If you somehow haven't seen it, get thee to the Esquire tomorrow, since it's an absolute classic, ranked No. 45 on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 funniest movies ever.
9) Kermit and Miss Piggy from The Muppet Movie
Most of us grew up with this one, so it can be hard to see how truly weird it is. Setting aside the logistical difficulties of consummating their love, what do a frog and a pig even have to talk about? How do they reconcile their life cycles, much less their lifestyles? And what does a nice guy like Kermit see in such a high-maintenance, emotionally abusive sow? It's incomprehensible, really, which is all the more reason to believe it must be true love.
8) Dragon and Donkey from Shrek
Speaking of improbable cross-species romances, here's one for you younger folk to look back on and ask "WTF?" Sure, the dragon is presumably charmed by the antics of the remarkably Eddie Murphy-like donkey (despite the fact it's Nutty Professor-era Murphy, not 48 Hours-era), but again -- how is this going to work? When she gets worked up and starts breathing hot and heavy, won't he be roasted into donkey steaks? What's she going to do then, market them to European fast-food restaurants?
7) Lars and Bianca from Lars and the Real Girl
Love comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it even comes in a shipping crate, as in Lars and the Real Girl, a surprisingly touching story about a man and his love for an anatomically correct sex doll. It probably doesn't hurt that the man in question is Ryan Gosling, who, despite being probably the third handsomest man to ever live, somehow manages to pull off the role of a guy so awkward and socially inept he can't usually manage to have dinner with his family. It also doesn't hurt that despite one partner being a sex doll, the relationship is chaste. Chastity or not, real love for a fake girl qualifies you for a spot on this list.
6) Jonathan and Emmy from Mannequin
Continuing the theme of real love for plastic ladies, let us now recall one of the stranger '80s comedy hits, Mannequin. Jonathan is a sculptor who loses his job in a mannequin factory for refusing to rush his "art" (yes, really). Then he gets a job window dressing a department store, where the mannequin that caused him to be fired works. Er, lives. Exists? Anyway, the mannequin comes to life, calls herself Emmy, they fall in love and many awkward situations occur because she turns back to cold, unmoving plastic when anyone else is around. Or maybe because he's fucking nuts, if you prefer a more realistic and darker interpretation of the story.
5) Andrew and Portia from Bicentennial Man
Rounding out the trio of love for plastic facsimiles of humanity, and proving that it's not only men who can be swayed by the artificial, Bicentennial Man features at its center a relationship between a robot named Andrew and a human woman named Portia. He wants to be declared human so they can marry, but the World Congress says, "No way, dude," citing the fact that his immortal status would cause jealousy among standard-issue humans and proving that future congress is full of just as many dickbags as our current Congress. Then he figures out a way that he can become more human, even eventually age and die, so they can be together officially. Dead, sure, but together. Ah, romance. It apparently will never stop causing people to do dumbass things, even in the future when those people are robots.
4) Gnaghi and Valentina from Cemetery Man
Is there any love so pure as that between a childlike imbecile and the zombified severed head of a teen girl that he keeps in a gutted television set? Surprisingly, no. The off-kilter Cemetery Man is full of morbid musings on sex and death, but the relationship between the two is actually kind of sweet. No, seriously, it's sweet in that peculiar way that only a romance between a gravedigger's assistant whose only method of communication is to grunt "Gna" and the undead head of the daughter of the town's mayor, killed tragically in a motorcycle accident, can be.
3) Max and Margaret from Max, Mon Amour
It's one of the more obscure films on this list, but that doesn't make it any less deserving. Regardless of its underground status, this tale of love between a woman and a chimpanzee deserves a place of honor on any list of weirdest couples because, duh. The bizarre film pairs a Japanese director with a French screenwriter to tell a tale of one hell of a love triangle (she's married, to a human). It's a perverse spoof of ribald French comedies that features some ape-lovin' scenes that will make you squirm even more than Charlton Heston's ape makeout in Planet of the Apes. After all, that dude was hairy enough to almost be an ape, anyway.
2) Howard and Beverly from Howard the Duck
No matter what kind of bad-for-you mates attract you, rest assured there are people with worse judgment out there. People like Beverly, for example, a singer for the punk-rock band Cherry Bomb who manages to fall for an anthropomorphic duck from another dimension. Sure, he rescues her a couple of times and helps her get out of a bad contract, but then there's that whole duck thing. It's a bad idea on so many levels, and the feathers are just the start of it. Look, just do a Google image search for duck penis (obviously NSFW, unless you work in animal husbandry) and you'll understand why this was just wrong from the start.
1) Beverly/Elliot and Claire from Dead Ringers
Why end on a weird couple when you can end on a weird trio? Beverly and Elliot Mantle are twin brothers who are successful gynecologists. Elliot has a habit of seducing women who come to his clinic, which is pretty unethical. He then has his twin brother Beverly continue the affair once he gets tired of it, which is a touch more unethical. Then Claire comes into their lives and things get really weird, because hey, twin brother gynecologists that share women isn't weird enough, right? What comes next is a hallucinogenic mess of drug addiction, experimental gynecological instruments and murder-suicide. Best of all, it's based, loosely, on a true story.
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