By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist August 1, 2013 at 12:59PM
"Endless Love" (1981)
Light on recognisable emotion and logic, heavy on skeeze, teen melodrama "Endless Love" from Franco Zeffirelli, is an utterly daft, deliriously mawkish romance that gave an unbelievably gorgeous, angel-faced Brooke Shields her first role after softcore kids' classic "Blue Lagoon." Co-starring Martin Hewitt (who was apparently found after an extensive search and then presumably driven back and dropped off right after), the film is about a sexually active 15- and 17-year old couple who are just super duper in love. So much so that when nooky is suspended due to parental interference, he just can't take it and resolves to impress his way back into her bed by saving the family home from a fire that he himself has set. This foolproof plan goes wrong and he goes to prison for arson. When he gets out he is still TOTES in love with Shields, but unfortunately kind of a little bit sorta you could say causes the death of her father and gets sent down again. This is not a comedy, despite how it sounds. News was it was going to be remade with Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde, though that's gone a bit quiet and nowadays it's best known as Tom Cruise's very first screen role, as a sniggering jock in shorts in a single scene.
"An Education" (2009)
One aspect of first loves that "An Education" dramatizes well is when you think that the relationship is one thing but it turns out to be something else. Such is the case when young Jenny (Carey Mulligan) falls in love with an older businessman named David (Peter Sarsgaard). Throughout the course of the movie, Jenny learns that David isn't what he appears to be (first some kind of shady con man, later already married) and the movie plays nicely with how these revelations affect the color of the relationship. The good parts, when she swooned with love, now seem tainted, while all of those people who warned her about her relationship with a much older man, and against rushing into something as serious as a relationship, have their opinions validated in retrospect and to Jenny's chagrin. "An Education," based on journalist Lynn Barber's memoir and adapted by novelist Nick Hornby, who excels in engaging in all the messy facets of first love and gets a number of awkward little moments wonderfully right, like when Jenny has David over for dinner with her parents (played by Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour). These are the small, delicate speed-bumps on the road to your first love that are rarely depicted, which is maybe why scenes like this resonate. Like any good first love, too, Jenny learns from her experience and it makes her a stronger, more dynamic woman in the end. It might have been her first love, but it certainly won't be her last, and not even close to her best.
"Jack and Diane" (2011)
First loves can be awkward and messy and largely unexplainable, which goes a long way in making "Jack and Diane," a somewhat confused muddle of a movie, seem a lot more powerful than it actually is. In the movie, Diane (Juno Temple), who suffers from chronic nosebleeds and a fairly fucked up home life, becomes the object of affection for Jack (Riley Keough), a young girl who is much more comfortable in her sexuality. They stumble through things painfully, even more so because the girls might regularly be transforming into some kind of monster (initially the movie was described as being a werewolf thing, but the ace effects by stop motion pioneers the Quay Brothers are confined to segments that may or may not be dream sequences). So the monster stuff doesn't really work as part of the larger narrative, especially since the creatures are so muddily photographed. But for a large part of the movie, it doesn't really matter: When you're with another person, especially for the first time, you feel as though some of their attributes become incorporated into you, and this sense of transformation is well evoked. Much of the success of "Jack and Diane" rests with the young actresses, who do a terrific job of bringing such a singular experience to life and making it not just a gay movie or a monster movie but a movie that everyone can relate to and feel for.
The only thing better than a first love is a first love expressed... in song! What's so great about "Grease" is that it basically gives you the entire first love experience in one great number ("Summer Nights"), a pocket version of how high schoolers Danny (John Travolta) and Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) met over the summer and fell in love. All of that moony-eyed stuff is in that one sequence, but the rest of "Grease" focuses on the follow-up to that romance, when both Danny and Sandy realize they're attending the same high school the following year. That's when all the high school dynamics come into play: meeting each others' friends, school dances, and attempting to maintain a long relationship in school after you've met the other person in the sunny bubble that is summer vacation. "Grease" might be a fantasy (it does, after all, end with a flying car straight out of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang"), but that doesn't mean it can't be truthful. It gets to show the idyllic nature of that purely wonderful first love and then all of the nonsense that falls directly after it. Also, the songs are amazing.
Stylishly adapting Joe Dunthorne’s debut novel, and marking the directorial debut of talented comedian and actor Richard Ayoade (although Ayoade had already achieved noted success with a string of high-profile music videos), “Submarine” was an auspicious moment in the careers of everyone involved. Teen actors Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige, in their first major roles, play Oliver Tate and Jordana Bevan, a pair of classmates in drizzly 1980s Wales who must negotiate a myriad of problems both parental and existential as they navigate the turbulent waters of romance. The film rightly drew comparisons with the work of Wes Anderson for its visual quirkiness and precocious youths, but although it also has a huge pile of references to the French New Wave (seriously, check out Richard Brody’s takedown in the New Yorker), Oliver Tate is actually more like an adolescent Woody Allen (another comic turned director) than anything from Truffaut or Godard. Tate is a self-styled Nietzsche-reading intellectual, convinced of his own genius, and, much like Isaac Davis or Alvy Singer, able to move from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again in a heartbeat. It is this vacillatory aspect of young love which “Submarine” (thanks to a superb performance from Roberts) is able to nail down so well; Oliver is suicidal one minute and daydreaming the next. Of course, this doesn’t make it any less real for the hapless protagonist, and we should pity any man who thinks his first romance was any less ridiculous, any less anguished or any less po-faced than the star-crossed lovers at the heart of this assured and big-hearted debut.