Date Ideas

Folk Music Is Bringing Sexy Back: This Week in Date Movies

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Picking a “date movie” isn’t as easy as scrolling through listings and finding something that suits your fancy. Don’t forget the “date” half. When the credits roll and conversation picks back up, the film is still front and center. Here’s how this weekend’s movies will twist your night, for better or worse:

Inside Llewyn Davis

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What It Is: The Coen Bros. (No Country for Old Men, Fargo) dive into New York’s ’60s folk scene through the eyes of Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) a Dave Van Ronk stand-in who can’t get his career off the ground.

The movie is full of wry humor and emotional discovery, but it juxtaposes the sweetness of its acoustic soundtrack with a Murphy’s Law maelstrom.

How It Shapes the Date:
Even when they’re tackling romance (see: Intolerable Cruelty), the Brothers Coen are enamored with the curveballs of life. They pit their characters against ultimate hardships and see how they react. Inside Llewyn Davis is the epitome of that experiment, a bleak portrait of a struggling artist with only the tiniest glimmer of hope. Llewyn is a curt fellow and he’s steadfast in avoiding commercialism (aka he’s a snob). The movie is full of wry humor and emotional discovery, but it juxtaposes the sweetness of its acoustic soundtrack with a Murphy’s Law maelstrom. Many people will walk out of Inside Llewyn Davis irritated. It’s not easy-to-swallow entertainment and the thread of romance in the film intentionally blows up in our hero’s face just like everything else. But it’s one of the year’s best, a date movie for right-brained couples comfortable with life’s sinusoidal motion.

Make It: A second date

Out of the Furnace

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What It Is: A brooding drama starring Christian Bale as a Rust Belt factory worker who returns from a stint in prison to find his brother (Casey Affleck) fighting in an underground, bare-knuckle boxing circuit.

The movie is striking — Crazy Heart director Scott Cooper gives it an earthly beauty — but expect it to pour water on the fire as a date movie.

How It Shapes the Date:
Out of the Furnace is a dour film without much reason for being so glum. There’s a lot bubbling under the surface as Bale’s character confronts life’s hurdles, which includes everything from a devastating car crash to a dissolved relationship to his brother’s disappearance. But the revelations are few and far between. The movie is about mood, about the weight of life that rests heavier on certain shoulders. Very few people will want to share this experience with Bale, and even fewer daters will want to share it with each other. The movie is striking — Crazy Heart director Scott Cooper gives it an earthly beauty — but expect it to pour water on the fire as a date movie.

Make It: A third date for cinephile completists only.

Broken Circle Breakdown

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What It Is: Did you know Belgium has a folk music scene? Belgium has a folk music scene! The Bluegrass-infused Broken Circle Breakdown crosscuts between a couple’s romantic beginnings and their later days caring for their daughter, who is battling cancer.

Though the film juggles serious issues — terminal illness, drug addiction, politics, the durability of relationships — honestly and gracefulness keep Broken Circle Breakdown from missing a beat.

How It Shapes the Date:
First, don’t be scared of subtitles. Belgian people are just like you and me. Broken Circle Breakdown is proof; Elise and Didier meet by happenstance and fall madly (and organically) in love. The relationship paves the way for a daughter, a surprise that’s both terrifying and joyous. Years later, when they discover she has cancer, both individuals spiral in different directions. Though the film juggles serious issues — terminal illness, drug addiction, politics, the durability of relationships — honestly and gracefulness keep Broken Circle Breakdown from missing a beat. This is the best kind of tearjerker, a kind of cinematic glue that reinforces the messy, wonderful romance we experience in real life.

Make It: A fourth date.

Expecting

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What It Is: The indie dramedy revolves around two friends: Lizzie (Radha Mitchell), who wants to have a baby but can’t, and her best friend Andie (Michelle Monaghan) who winds up pregnant after a one-night stand.

For those moments when you and a date are flipping through movie listings or VOD possibilities, in desperate need to put something on that won’t offend, obliterate the senses, or prove distracting with complicated plotting, Expecting gets the job done.

How It Shapes the Date:
Expecting isn’t profound enough to blow past its silly premise and not quite funny enough to overlook its hammy dramatics. But for those moments when you and a date are flipping through movie listings or VOD possibilities, in desperate need to put something on that won’t offend, obliterate the senses, or prove distracting with complicated plotting, Expecting gets the job done. It’s nice. Mitchell and her on-screen hubby bicker and warmly apologize like a real couple, while Monaghan goes wild for laughs. The only real danger for dating prospects is that the whole thing involves having a baby. Maybe you’re not ready for that.

Make It: A seventh date where you might only be kind of paying attention.

Matt Patches is a writer and reporter living in New York City. His work has been featured on Vulture, Grantland, and The Hollywood Reporter. He is the host of the pop culture podcast Fighting in the War Room.

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