Like most holidays, New Year's Eve usually incites endless clichés. People try (and fail) to sing "Auld Lang Syne," create resolutions that will be broken by the following Tuesday, and awkwardly kiss at midnight. Even though the holiday is a lesser-celebration to big brother Christmas, there happen to be some great movies based around the time the clock strikes midnight. Here are a few you might want to take a look at before heading out to a party or watching the ball drop.
The holiday in question isn't Christmas, nor is it New Year's Day. Rather, it refers to the trips taken by two women (Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet) who swap houses at the end of December. Romantically comedic things ensue and by the end of the movie they're celebrating the new year together, along with Jack Black and Jude Law, offering up the perfect low-key New Year's celebration with just a few friends.
Not to be outdone by the movie that took its name 70 years later, in the original (well, okay, semi-original) Holiday, Cary Grant announces his engagement to a wealthy girl on New Year's Eve. However, since this is a 1930's screwball, we all know that he's really in love with her sister. Why? Because she's played by Katharine Hepburn, and that's the way movies from the '30s work.
For a much darker take on New Year's romance, Billy Wilder created The Apartment. Baxter (Lemmon), who is forced to allow his bosses to use his apartment as a love nest, winds up falling for one of the women he meets there. Come New Year's Eve, he decides that enough is enough and, along with a new year, he finds a new backbone.
If you're feeling down and want to go dark for your New Year's Eve viewing, you can't get any darker than P.T. Anderson's breakthrough feature. We all know there's a rise in suicides during the holidays, but few movies are willing to show its characters actually going through with things. Here, Anderson has William H. Macy's character celebrate the beginning of a new year by putting a gun in his mouth.
This is one of the Coen Brothers' most overlooked movies, perhaps because like many of their best flicks (The Big Lebowski, A Serious Man) its humor requires some modicum of thought — the Coens don't make Happy Madison movies. The picture's climax arrives on New Year's Eve, eventually leading to a climactic fall from a giant clock at the stroke of midnight. The strangeness of what happens then is a tribute to how far the Coens are willing to take their movies as well as the sense of renewal that comes with the holiday.
We should all hope to be so lucky as to meet Rachel Weisz on New Year's Eve, but unfortunately she requires prospective romantic interests to actually do something with their lives. Despite having the requisite midnight-kiss scene, About a Boy manages to get away with it by forgoing every other cliché and turning Weisz and Hugh Grant's meeting into more than just a romantic introduction — it's the driving point for the second half of the movie.
While About a Boy takes the New Year's Eve meeting into a strange, semi-realistic realm, sometimes what you want is just some silly fun. Here the holiday also acts as a catalyst, using Bridget's (Renee Zellweger) unfortunate New Year's meeting with a suitor played by Colin Firth to drive her to change herself and find the right guy. No one is arguing this movie is Shakespeare, but that doesn't mean it does a bad job celebrating the spirit of the holiday — the movie is in some ways the story of a very extreme New Year's resolution.
Because 2011 was a year spent in recession and filled with protestors on the streets, the most topical New Year's movie on our list is Trading Places, a wonderful satire on Wall Street businessmen. Its New Year's Eve costume party scene remains the funniest New Year's celebration ever put to film... with the added advantage of sticking it to the man. Happy New Year from all of us at Reelz.com — may your celebrations be filled with rabbis, gorillas, and (if you're lucky) a winning $1 bet.