Song of the Day: The National, "Terrible Love"
Last night I saw the new Nicholas Sparks movie The Choice, which was undoubtedly one of the worst movies I've ever paid money to see in a theater. I ended up screening it out of morbid curiosity, as while I had never seen a Sparks movie before, I had delighted in the strange twists that many of those stories had—particularly the third act of Safe Haven, where it is revealed that a character had been a ghost all along.
I was desperately hoping for the same sort of madness in The Choice, which appeared from the commercials to be a movie about deciding whether or not to take somebody off of life support. My imagination ran wild with the possibilities: Would our male hero (in this case a twangy veterinarian named Travis, played by Benjamin Walker) fall in love with another woman while his main squeeze was in a coma, only to have her wake up and force him to pick between the two of them? And how would anybody astral project in this reality? The Choice could have gone in any number of terrible directions, and those possibilities—coupled with its atrocious rating on Rotten Tomatoes—made for an irresistible opportunity.
However, The Choice isn't bad in an interesting, over-the-top way. It's merely boring. There were a handful of moments that were completely bonkers, including an accidentally hilarious car accident and a sequence where our hero builds a gazebo out of driftwood. But perhaps the strangest bit of nonsense in The Choice comes when Travis and his new girl Gabby (Teresa Palmer) have sex for the first time. They've had dinner and are sipping wine, and Travis goes over to Gabby's vinyl collection to pull out a record. He puts the needle down, and out comes the National's "Terrible Love." They bone, clearing off two separate tabletops in the process.
As its title implies, "Terrible Love" is an awful song for sex. It's not really a song about love at all—as far as I can tell, "Terrible Love" is about social anxiety and self-medicating with alcohol. But even if we ignore the lyrics (which I do all the time), its quiet storm arrangement isn't particularly erotic. (Plus, if Travis did in fact put on The National's 2010 album High Violet, then he's going to end up climaxing to the song after "Terrible Love," a track called "Sorrow" that is exactly as sexy as the title implies. However, it's unclear whether or not that would actually come up—Travis pulls a record out of a sleeve that is clearly not the cover to High Violet, a detail that drove me completely nuts for about 10 minutes while watching the film.)
High Violet was released in 2010 to rapturous acclaim and did alarmingly big business, debuting at number three on the Billboard album chart and selling over a quarter million copies in the U.S., an astounding figure for a relatively tiny release (albeit one with a lot of high-profile supporters—late night bookers love the National, and the band was able to debut "Terrible Love" on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon well in advance of the album release in order to build buzz). It's a brooding collection of orchestral post-punk that is probably a little too curated for its own good, though it's hard to deny the power of frontman Matt Berninger's hypnotic baritone. In fact, it's such a rich voice that it can bamboozle music supervisors into thinking the National songs are a good idea to put under a passionate sex scene.
So here are your two lessons: Don't go see The Choice, and don't bone to the National. You're welcome.