This weekend hubby and I watched This Means War, the latest romantic comedy with Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, and Tom Hardy, and it’s had me thinking about love triangles. The basic premise of the movie is that two spies who are BFFs and partners (Pine and Hardy) wind up inadvertently meeting the same girl (Witherspoon) and get into a competition to see who can win her. The concept was funny, and indeed there were lots of entertaining bits where each misappropriated CIA technology and resources in an effort to win the day. I was really enjoying it until about…two-thirds of the way through the movie. And then the whole thing fell flat for me.
It wasn’t just a matter of my being on the losing team (you know how everybody’s all Team Edward! Team Jacob! when love triangles show up). It was how the whole thing was dealt with. As a watcher, I just didn’t buy the ending for either guy or the girl. Now, when it’s done well, I LOVE a good love triangle. The best example that springs to mind for me is Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey series (Team Ash all the way!). That one worked for me because Kagawa does a great job making you believe in Meghan’s connection to whoever you’re supposed to be rooting for in whichever book. She’s not some wishy-washy Mary Sue who twirls her hair and goes, oh, gee, I have these two great guys interested in me, whatever will I do? In Book 1 Meghan falls for the Winter Prince Ash, who, early in Book 2 becomes a total dick (he has very good reasons for it, which we find out later). It then makes perfect sense for Meghan to turn to BFF Puck, who, bless him, has been in love with her forever. But she’s CONFLICTED about the whole thing, and in the end when Ash wins out, we’re not feeling like she wound up with the wrong guy (even though we feel very bad for Puck and Julie, you damn well better give him a girl in this next trilogy because he needs one!). The whole emotional arc of all three characters was extremely well developed.
Now of course we can’t have that expectation in a two hour movie. You can’t do as much in that time frame as you can across three books. But here’s where This Means War fell apart for me. **SPOILER ALERT for THIS MEANS WAR** We have our two heroes: FDR (played by Pine) who is your classic arrogant womanizer (and what the hell kind of name is FDR?) spy and Tuck (played by Hardy), the gentlemanly Brit, who has a 7 year old son with a woman with whom things hadn’t worked out (there’s not much backstory given on this). It starts off well. Tuck is a charmer (he’s British, y’all–of COURSE he’s a charmer) and a gentleman and FDR is kind of a pretentious asshole. But heroine Lauren winds up making a physical connection with him to make her ex-fiance jealous (you know, the classic, random smoochies in public even though she’s made it clear to FDR that she’s so unimpressed at the flashy, show off kind of date he tried to take her on), which then nets him an opportunity to show another side of himself besides the flashy womanizer. This kind of transition annoys me. Oh, I’m a man ho, but I have a hard time trusting people, I’m really sensitive and shit. Can you tell I was Team Tuck?
Hubby and I both felt like we were supposed to be rooting for Tuck from the get go, as he was (to us) the better guy. He was far more genuine a person. So we go on and Lauren really likes them both and then apparently she decides that the only way to decide is to sleep with them. Both heroes vow not to do it (as they made rules about this engagement on the front end so that it wouldn’t muck up their friendship), but of course FDR doesn’t resist at all when Lauren initiates. That would be the point at which hubby and I got kind of disgusted with the movie in general. I’m sorry, I don’t have any respect for heroines who sleep with multiple people. And I don’t have respect for heroes who stab their best friends in the back. So movie goes on and Tuck gets his shot in the sack, and he’s all emotionally vulnerable and admits he’s in love with her and then there’s a nice fade to black.
She’s conflicted and consults with her BFF who gives her the advice “Go with the one who makes you a better person.” So we arrive at the point where she’s apparently going to make a choice (which appears to be Tuck) and then FDR shows up because of a case that’s been going on in the background the whole movie (part of the rules was that Lauren wouldn’t know that they knew each other). The two get into a brawl and Lauren gets kidnapped by the bad guys. Okay, so the guys have to come together to rescue the girl. At this point I’m starting to wonder if maybe she’s not going to end up with EITHER of them (she’s quite shocked to find out that they are spies). There’s the dramatic chase scene and a moment where in order to survive circumstances, she has to dive toward one or the other of the guys. There’s an explosion and when the smoke clears, she’s with FDR.
Let’s review that BFF advice, “Go with the one who makes you a better person.” And…she goes with the secretly sensitive, best friend backstabbing womanizer, whom she’s managed to reform? BAH. Nice guy Tuck loses out. Oh, but maybe not, because now that it’s come out on the local news (which covered the car chase with the bad guys that ended in fiery explosions) that he’s not really a travel agent, the woman who is the mother of his child is suddenly willing to be in a relationship with him? Ok, maaaaaaaybe I’ll let that slide, as I’m romantic enough to invent the backstory where the reason they didn’t work out was because he had to lie to her all the time about his job, but STILL. This felt very contrived and too convenient, Oh yay, we get to be a family.
All in all, I did not really like Lauren as a heroine. I didn’t feel any real emotional struggle and I didn’t truly buy her connection to either of these guys, so the whole thing left me very unsatisfied as a watcher. I feel like with love triangles, the author should have in mind from the get go who the heroine (or hero…depending on who is being fought over) is going to end up with and make a compelling argument for both possible love interests, but still make it clear which one is right and why. /rant
What about you? Do you like love triangles? What are your pet peeves about them?
A lot of love triangles leave me annoyed. Most of those that I’ve watched or read just leave me annoyed with the girl (why so fickle) especially if one guy appears to be a better person. This movie sounds like it would have made me angry I spent money on the movie ticket. 🙂
Yes, I feel the same way about love triangles!
Love triangles can make things interesting. But I always end up feeling bad for the loser. 🙁
You beat me to the punch. I love a good triangle but I need to have emotional investment in the girl too. When she falls flat it bothers me, and I hate it if I dislike her enough that I hope my guy does NOT get her. I agree that she should be with the one who makes her better and not be based on looks. However if she is annoying and pesky then I end up rooting for the bad guy to get her. So bad. Glad I never saw this movie.
I like love triangles; they add to the conflict and can keep a story interesting. I saw the trailer for this movie and it looked silly.Won’t be watching it.
I haven’t seen this but I’ll probably check it out when it’s on cable (for free). I’m not big on love triangles. For me personally, it seems overdone, unrealistic, and predictable. But, I do see the drama it creates for love stories and many comedies….
Agreed w/ Amber. As a reader, I’m extremely leery of love triangles, because often they feel poorly developed to me. I could name a few popular series where I can’t figure out why the FMC chose who she did, because her “reasons” (when any are given) make no sense whatsoever.
(In one series, the FMC picks guy #1 over the other b/c guy #2 manipulates her. Er, no, guy #1 does, too—guy #2’s just forthright about both that he’s manipulating her and what his goals are. For some reason, though, she’s convinced only guy #2 does any manipulating.)
As a writer, though, I want to write a love triangle where the female lead sends the “bad boy” packing.