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Eight obvious red flags in classic Hollywood romances

Dreamy love interests to run an absolute mile from

Phil de Semlyen
Written by
Phil de Semlyen
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Obviously, Pretty Woman is a classic example of Hollywood romances’ age-old fixation with heroes who ‘rescue’ each other – a skew on the old Cinderella fable spiced up with A-list actors and fancy sprees down Rodeo Drive. But it’s worth remember that in at least one of the original versions of that fairy tale, Cinders is brutally murdered by her stepsister. All is not necessarily well that ends well, in other words. With that in mind, we’ve put on our agony uncle/aunt hat and taken a less-than-forensic look at some of those movie romances where everyone is too blinded by the swooning possibilities to notice the fatal flaws.

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The Time Traveler’s Wife
  • Film
  • Romance

You don’t need a relationship counsellor to tell you that hooking up with a time traveller is problematic. So it is when Rachel McAdams’s Clare tries to make a go of it with Eric Bana’s Henry DeTamble, a man who suddenly and uncontrollably lurches through time, routinely popping up stark naked in an entirely different year. And, worse, he’s been seeing her behind her own back since she was a child. This is a whole (ahem) banner’s worth of red flags. 

Red flags: public nudity, grooming

  • Film
  • Comedy

Audrey Hepburn is the daughter of a chauffeur caught between the affections of two rich brothers in Billy Wilder’s Cinderella-alike romance. There’s William Holden’s flaky David Larrabee and Humphrey Bogart’s serious-minded Linus. But which should she go for? How about neither? The former is a feckless playboy and the latter is a dull industrialist nearly twice her age who will almost certainly spend honeymoon looking at spreadsheets.  

Red flagsage gap, reverse Cinderella complex

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  • Film
  • Drama

Yes, it’s a touching story of a man who just wants to build his girl a house – and in the current housing market, we can all get behind that. And yes, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams are totes adorbs as the doting couple. But we do need to talk about the fairground scene. There’s something uncomfortable about public displays of affection that put one party so majorly on the spot (see also: this scene in Parenthood, John Cusack in Say Anything, the skywriting in Big Fish). Double that when that party has already said no. Triple it when your response involves threatening suicide at the top of a Ferris Wheel

Red flags: controlling behaviour

  • Film

Kevin Costner’s ex-Secret Service agent Frank Farmer will put his body on the line for popstar Rachel Marron (Whitney Houston) – which is ironic because he’s nowhere to be found when shit gets real, emotionally-speaking. It’s a bit rich to play the ‘I’m a professional’ card to bail out on your protectee when she develops feelings for you, when you’ve already hopped into bed with them once. 

Red flags: commitment issues, respect for professional boundaries

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  • Film
  • Comedy

At a risk of dumping on one of the all-time British romantic-comedies, foppish charmer Charles (Hugh Grant) and serious-minded American Carrie (Andie MacDowell) are scoring about zero percent on any good compatibility algorithm. In truth, Carrie represents a romantic disaster zone for the less worldly Brit: she cheats without any hint of guilt, reels him in and pushes him away when it suits her, says things like: ‘I assumed since we’d slept together and everything, we’d probably get married,’ and happily confesses to be a massive golddigger. You’d give this one a week, tops.

Red flags: incompatibility

Beauty and the Beast (1991)
  • Film
  • Family and kids

When you haven’t dated for a while and your main source of romantic advice is a clock, you’re going to get the odd thing wrong. We get that and still remain firmly on #TeamBeast through the classic Disney animation. But – and there is a big ‘but’ here – relationships need a lot of room to breathe, especially in their early stages. So when you’ve already imprisoned the object of your affections, don’t double down on the error by suddenly giving them your entire library. Beast should have done what Cogsworth suggested and just given Belle flowers. 

Red flags: love bombing

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  • Film
  • Drama

It’s not Rose’s bogarting of that life raft that’s the main concern about Titanic’s love story, but her interest in Jack in the first place. The cynic might say that Kate Winslet’s privileged heiress is most drawn to Leonardo DiCaprio’s economic migrant for what he represents rather than who he really is – the chance to escape from her abusive fiancé and controlling family. Okay, and get drawn like a French girl. But for a relationship that lasts only two days, it’s a bit obsessional and intense. The real red flag comes later when Rose tells her granddaughter that it Jack was the real love of her life (remember: 48 hours), and not her life partner. Seriously, wtf? 

Red flagsclass tourism, co-dependence

About Time
  • Film
  • Comedy

Having been through the time travelling-husband thing once in The Time Traveler’s Wife, Rachel McAdams gets caught in the middle of some real timey-wimey BS in Richard Curtis’s questionably premised romcom. Her life partner, Tim (Domhnall Gleeson), has a genetic ability to go back in time when he messes up and correct his mistakes. Cheat mode is fine when you’re playing ‘Call of Duty’, but significantly less okay when you’re using information you shouldn’t have to woo someone who never finds out that you have it. 

Red flags: Deceit, possibly stalking

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