We know life isn't like the movies—romance in particular. But as Hollywood's leading ladies chase love and often find it happily ever after, it's tempting to try to copy their moves. To see what kind of advice we're consuming with our popcorn, O watched four chick flicks—two old, two new—looking for the obvious lessons in each plot, as well as any hidden signals. Then we called Judith Sills, PhD—a Philadelphia-based psychologist and author of six books, including A Fine Romance and How to Stop Looking for Someone Perfect—and asked her how the films' messages hold up in real life. First up:
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Plot: Sensible, engaged Vicky (Rebecca Hall) has a lusty affair with a Lothario artist (Javier Bardem—can you blame her?) but chooses married life with her dull fiancé. Her free-spirited friend, Cristina (Scarlett Johansson), has a wild fling (also with Bardem) but remains happily single.
First-take message: Have a fling—even if it leads nowhere, it's worth it.
On second thought... Better not to know what you're missing.
We wonder: Did Vicky make the right choice?
Judith Sills says: "This may not be the movie ending we want, but security is grossly underrated. A woman like Vicky might be miserable sometimes, but she'll also be cozy."
He's Just Not That Into You
Plot: A single woman (Ginnifer Goodwin), in hot pursuit of a man, any man, to call her own, stumbles across one. As it turns out, the guy who clues her in about the signals a man sends when he's not interested is, in fact, the man who's interested.
First-take message: If he doesn't call, he's just not that into you.
On second thought... Keep after him like a lovesick dog; something's bound to happen.
We wonder: How do you know when it's time to give up the chase?
Sills says: "When you've clearly signaled your interest and he doesn't pursue. And believe me, it's sooner than you think."
My Life in Ruins
Plot: A brainy American tour guide (Nia Vardalos) in Greece unexpectedly finds love with her handsome tour-bus driver.
First-take message: Loosen up and let life happen.
On second thought... It's best to loosen up (and have great sex) on vacation—preferably in a place with ruins.
We wonder: If you come across love in exotic circumstances, will it last?
Sills says: "It can last, but it's difficult. When you discover a new part of yourself in a new environment, it's hard to translate that back to the same old situation. The you who shows up in Greece is not necessarily the you who shows up at your law firm."
The Ugly Truth
Plot: A control-freak television producer (Katherine Heigl) meets a boorish, sexist TV commentator (Gerard Butler). They hate each other—until they don't.
First-take message: Opposites attract.
On second thought... Nothing hidden here: Opposites attract.
We wonder: Do two very different people change when they fall in love?
Sills says: "Strong traits do not disappear, but great couples move in a little more toward the middle; they soften each other's edges and accept each other's inherent differences. Troubled couples tend to move to further extremes."