But the cliché also leads to a movie trope that I'm sure goes beyond the five examples I've got for you today. In these movies, we have an artistically talented woman who's talents are locked inside by her lack of confidence or her urge to practicality. Locked, of course, until love frees her up. Often, though, it only takes off after her creativity is loosened by heartbreak. I'm not sure why writers like this, but it works for me. Here are my five, and one film that flips the guy and gal roles.
"A Lot Like Love" (2005) -- Emily (Amanda Peet) is first an angry punk, and later an untalented desperate actress. It's only Oliver (Ashton Kutcher) who can free her up with his openness and willingness to take chances. And its only when she sees that he appreciated her photographic talent and he gives her his camera that she turns into a photographer. It includes one of the common sub-versions of this theme: The estranged lover accidentally happens upon the gallery showing her work.
"What's Your Number?" (2011) -- Ally (Anna Faris) is one of those people who dabbles in creative things, but doesn't consider herself an artist. It's only when her obnoxious neighbor Colin (Chris Evans) notices her little tableaux, that she realizes that she's done something creative. And once she falls for him and then has a falling out, she goes at it in earnest.
"Shopgirl" (2005) -- Claire Danes is Mirabelle, the title shopgirl. Steve Martin's Ray encourages her, but he's almost literally patronizing, because he sees her as a romantic interlude, not a love. It is only after she's had enough, because she wants more (paradox), that she breaks up with Ray and throws herself into more artistic pursuits, ending with a gallery show where she gives him one of her works.
"Kissing Jessica Stein" (2001) -- Jessica (Jennifer Westfeldt) left painting behind in college, but picks it up again thanks to praise and emotional stimulation from her new lesbian lover and her old college boyfriend. It's a symbol, once again, of the character learning to open herself up to who she really is.
"Runaway Bride" (1999) -- Who is Maggie Carpenter (Julia Roberts) really? She's a chameleon taking on the personalities of her would-be husbands. But it's Ike (Richard Gere) who shows her the way to become herself. It's only after their big blow-up that he sees she's left the hardware world in favor of creating far out lamp designs in New York. Time for them to get together.
"Sweet Home Alabama" (2002) -- This is the one with the sex-roles reversed. Viewers come into this movie long after Melanie (Reese Witherspoon) breaks the heart of Jake (Josh Lucas) so we don't know the secret he's been hiding. Stimulated by the wish to get her back, he's turned to producing beautiful glassware and sculpture. Once again, Melanie comes upon the artwork accidentally and it helps to bring her back to Jake.