Here is the climactic romantic exchange from the romantic comedy The American President, the one that brings the movie’s central couple—the eponymous executive and his lobbyist girlfriend—to their happy ending:
President Andrew Shepherd: Sydney, I didn’t decide to send 455 to the floor to get you back.
Sydney Ellen Wade: I didn’t come back ‘cause you decided to send 455 to the floor.
Swoon, right? The lines, to put them in their proper context, are uttered in the Oval Office of the White House, epic orchestrals swelling epically in the background, on the day President Shepherd is to deliver the State of the Union to Congress and the American people. The exchange is followed by a passionate kiss, which is itself the culmination of, in rough order: the widower president dating Sydney after a chance run-in at the White House; their romance damaging his public approval ratings and thus his political capital and thus his ability to get Congress behind him on the crime bill he needs to get reelected; and, finally—I’m not sure whether a decades-old movie deserves an official spoiler alert, but just in case, SPOILER ALERT—the president betraying Sydney to achieve his political objectives, losing her in the process.
It’s the stuff of classic rom-com: Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy sends 455 to the floor. And if it all sounds extremely absurd, that’s because, to be clear, it most certainly is. (“Dig it, Ms. Wade,” an assistant tells Sydney, with full mid-’90s flair. “You’re the president’s girlfriend!”) The American President, however, was written by Aaron Sorkin, which means that its absurdities have a way of seeming much more epic than they actually are. The movie, for its many flaws, is a rom-com for the ages, its enduring appeal the result of both Sorkinian eloquence and the romance at the heart of the film. Which is about much more, in the end, than a boy and a girl and a carbon-emissions bill.