50 First Dates Makes Monogamy Exciting
BY ARIANA BACLE
The Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore rom-com proves routine can be full of surprises.
So often, rom-coms leave their star couples at the moment when everything becomes perfect. They’ve just overcome some huge barrier (distance, bad timing, etc.) and are now free to live passionate, obstacle-free lives forever. What makes 50 First Dates special is that it spends the entire movie showing how the couple’s speedbump — in this case, amnesia — isn’t one they’ll ever overcome. Rather, it’s part of the magic of their relationship.
When the womanizing Henry (Adam Sandler) meets Lucy (Drew Barrymore), he’s immediately smitten, but soon discovers she can’t create new memories due to a brain injury from a car accident. The movie’s opening sequence implies she’s Henry’s dream hook-up: He could easily hang out with her for a day, enjoy the excitement of a new romance and then exit the picture without her getting attached.
Of course, Henry’s dream changes once he encounters Lucy building waffle houses in the local diner. For the first time, he begins to understand why people stick with a single person. Monogamy isn’t a torturous ball-and-chain; it can be just as fun — nay, more fun — as sleeping with a stranger and then ghosting her the next day. It helps that there’s a built-in challenge with Lucy: Every 24 hours, Henry must win her over anew.
Henry’s evolution is clear when he finds out Lucy’s brother and father continually recreate the day of the accident so she never has to find out what she’s been through. Instead of running for the hills, Henry decides to find a new way to woo her each time her memory resets. Some days she’s responsive, other days she… pretends she doesn’t speak English. But Henry never gives up, instead focusing on the joy he feels when they do connect. He’s finally making an effort with someone.
This isn’t just a story about Henry growing up, though. It’s a story about Lucy finding love, even if her injured brain makes it challenging to sustain a relationship. On the days she’s smitten with Henry, she sings the Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” (albeit terribly). On the days Henry’s smitten with Lucy (always), he feels the foreign-to-him satisfaction of truly wanting to remain with someone. Two people aching for human connection in their own, unique ways are able to find it in each other. And like any good rom-com fan knows, finding that is enough to warrant going to great lengths to keep it.
And their relationship does require going to great lengths that, at times, seem insurmountable. “What do you get out of this?” Lucy’s father asks Henry early on, clearly confused about why anyone would willingly spend their life with a partner who can’t remember him.
“I don’t know,” Henry responds with a sense of wonderment. “But wouldn’t you want to spend an hour a day with that?” Nearby, Lucy is belting her off-key rendition of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” Not everyone would inspire her to sing; not everyone would want to hear her sing, day after day. But Henry and Lucy do.
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