In the newly released film Don McKay, Thomas Haden Church plays a lowly janitor who is coaxed back to his hometown by the love of his youth, whom he has never forgotten. The catch is that the woman, played by Elisabeth Shue, is now dying and presumably not long for this Earth. Only now has she realized her mistake in letting him drift away so many years ago ... and only now is she asking for his hand in marriage. What a proposition, huh? She gets a month or so of married bliss while poor Don will be saddled with further grief, even after he has tended to her needs and seen her through the rough parts of her illness. There's a story of a romance in there, even if Don McKay is anything but an entry into romantic revelry. Let us think back on this trend of too little, too late.
Spark any memories of another woman who pulled the same trick on another lovesick title character? How does Jenny in Forrest Gump suit you? His best friend since first meeting on the school bus, Jenny may have taken Forrest's virginity in college -- but she dodged his evident affections again and again. A pity screw after a proclamation of love led to three years on the run for Forrest to manage his grief. Finally she gets herself some AIDS and proposes to the guy, who, like Mr. Dobler, is all too happy to accept. What about the guys who have finally said "enough!"? The ones who would have given everything to their longstanding love, crush or friend only to be shot down repeatedly? The unrequited masters of their domain who gave the gals a little taste of their own heartbreak medicine?
In the recent She's Out Of My League, Lindsay Sloane's Marnie breaks up with Kirk (Jay Baruchel) -- and yet still hangs around him and his d-bag-centric family with her new beau. When he lucks into a relationship with a "10" named Molly (Alice Eve) and brings her home, Marnie begins changing her tune. All of a sudden Marnie wants to reclaim the self-esteem-challenged Kirk as her own. This is a common trend in the young adult/teen market, as evidenced by the infinitely better Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, which also begins with our lovelorn hero Nick (Michael Cera) being dumped by a gal named Tris (Alexis Dziena). This ungrateful harpy even tosses away all the mix CDs he made for her! (Ouch!) Luckily for Nick they are rescued from the trash by the much cooler Norah (Kat Dennings), who sparks something in both of them when she gets Nick to pretend to be her boyfriend. Tris sees them kiss and makes it her mission to destroy the burgeoning relationship. Ah, true love. Thankfully, both Kirk and Nick realize these gals are not worth an ounce of their pining and choose the right ones in the end.
1985 saw its share of crushes and replacement romances in a goofy pair of teenage comedies, Better Off Dead and Teen Wolf. Don't deny it. You love them both. In the former, Lane Meyer (John Cusack) has just been dumped by Beth (Amanda Wyss) for the pretty-boy ski-jock. Only after Lane beats him on the K-12 is Beth there cheering him on. "Oh Lane, you really are the best!" As good as a werewolf basketball player though? That Pamela Wells gal dating the rival school's star, Mick, never paid much attention to Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox) until he hit lycanthropic puberty. Only then are Scott's carnal wishes fulfilled as she seduces him in her dressing room. When he sinks the championship free throws, Pamela is ready to throw herself again at Scott. Instead he blows past her to lock lips with the "nice girl who was there all along."
Back in 1987 though, audiences only had to reach about the 90-minute mark of James L. Brooks' Broadcast News to witness one of the most stinging rejection scenes ever played out on film. (possible spoilers ahead!) Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks) has just realized he has all but lost his best friend and potential mate, Jane Craig (Holly Hunter), to the dim but handsome anchorman Tom Grunick (William Hurt). Aaron lays it all on the line, burying his true feelings in a mounted attack on why Jane shouldn't end up with Tom. Then Aaron ... hell, have a look for yourself. It's a phenomenal scene.
Women as "the best friend" and/or as the film's heroine have been in the same position. Like Watts in Some Kind of Wonderful, Hermione in the most recent Harry Potter adaptation, or even Boof in Teen Wolf. But we could talk about unrequited cinematic love all night. Which of the "movie women that got away" do you miss the most?