The problem I usually have with romantic comedies (especially today’s variety) is that when one of the two lead characters is already in a relationship with someone when they accidentally meet Mr/Ms Right at the beginning of the movie, the writers usually opt to make the romance seem OK for the viewers by taking the lazy route and make their current partner look bad in someway. Usually it’s something simple like turning the boyfriend into a complete douche bag or the girlfriend into a spoiled, self centered diva. That is why seeing an old classic like An Affair to Remember was such a refreshing change. The movie completely defies this rather cliché trope and turns it completely on its head by having Deborah Kerr’s fiancé be as nice as a guy could be, perhaps even a bit too nice. He doesn’t act particularly upset when Kerr breaks him the news that she can’t marry him after all. While he is disappointed that she’s found someone else, he still holds no grudge and even continues to try and support her like a true gentleman when she gets in the accident. It’s actually a bit amazing how they manage to make him look so likable, and decent in his devotion, without ever making him a hopeless sap. He’s just plays it like a good sport. It’s so old fashioned and chivalrous in a way, I love it. But I digress.
An Affair to Remember has been praised by many to be one of the most romantic movies of all time. Personally, I don’t find myself to be one of them. The movie is a bit too melodramatic for my taste, especially in the second half when Kerr’s character simply refuses to tell Cary Grant that she was paralyzed from the waist down and that’s why she couldn’t meet him at the top of the Empire State Building as they had promised. Sure, you can understand her logic, kinda, she wouldn’t want him to stay with her out of sense of pity and duty, but it is a bit much. It’s only in the final scene when Grant realizes what’s been going on, where the heightened levels of melodrama seem appropriate. That said, it’s not like the movie is terrible. The first half set on the boat is actually very charming and funny. I especially liked their dynamic when they tried to avoid each other and everybody on the ship seems to already know what the deal is. It’s just that the chemistry between Grant and Kerr never really gets to fully blossom and get to a point where I as a viewer desperately wanted to see them get together despite the obvious obstacles.