The Good: The Other Sister, Garry Marshall, 1999
This scene proves why Pretty Woman director Garry Marshall is the master of romantic comedy. It's about two disabled young people and I've got a special soft spot for it because my daughter has learning disabilities. The couple have been forbidden from seeing each other by her mother (Diane Keaton). He comes to find her in the final scene at her sister's wedding and it's classic Hollywood and OTT: he climbs in to the church, falls about among the bells, gets thrown out, asks her to marry him in front of the congregation and they finally have a double wedding. The scene illustrates how far you can go when the audience has been involved and engaged in the build-up, and Marshall plays it for all it's worth and gives you one extraordinary moment after another. Just when you are absolutely bathed in tears and think it can't get any stronger, a marching band appears and plays both of their favourite tunes. Because we have been part of the whole build-up of their relationship it feels like they've earned it. Despite it being unrealistic, it still feels truthful to the characters. Marshall is admirably risk-taking - I'm sat there as a film-maker thinking he shouldn't go further, and then he takes it one step further and it works. It's totally uncynical. I dream about the day when I can see my daughter walk down the aisle like this.
The Bad: Mystic River, Clint Eastwood, 2003
Endings are notoriously difficult, and here it destroyed a film that I otherwise enjoyed. It pastes on an ideology and that never works because a well-told story is complex. It's about three childhood friends who had witnessed the abuse of one of them (played by Tim Robbins). They are thrown back together in adulthood through the murder of Jimmy's (Sean Penn) daughter, and he eventually decides that Tim Robbins' character is the murderer, and kills him on the mystic river. Up until this point the film has been morally complex: We are sympathetic about Jimmy's desire to avenge his daughter's death. It first goes awry when the third friend (a cop) lets Jimmy off this murder and it's followed by an extraordinary scene when Jimmy's wife has a three-minute monologue that is basically a right-wing rant to justify murder. She says how a man's got to do what a man's got to do, and how he shouldn't feel bad. At first I thought it was an ironic pastiche of right-wing American thinking. Then two minutes into the speech I realised that Clint Eastwood really believes a post-September 11 ideology that whatever happens we are entitled to defend ourselves - even if we get the wrong guy. There's a moral certainty to this ideology that ruins the complexity of the story thus far. I felt cheated.
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