Give me more Meryl. Give us all more Meryl.
Oh, I don’t mean it literally, though I’m enthralled watching Meryl Streep cast in any role. And thanks to cable television, I spent much of my wet weekend catching up on films I’d never seen in the theater. I thoroughly enjoyed the Oscar winning actress in Doubt, in Julie and Julia, and last evening, in It’s Complicated.
It struck me this morning that over the space of a few days, I was treated to dramatically different depictions of mature women enjoying their lives – and their sexuality. In particular, Kim Catrall as Samantha in Sex and the City 2, and Meryl Streep as Jane in It’s Complicated.
The former left me disheartened, and the latter, enchanted.
It’s impossible to deny the prodigious talents of La Streep in material of any sort, and it’s unfair to compare Catrall and Streep for any number of reasons.
Writing for women by women?
There’s no question that the role of Jane in It’s Complicated offered more meat, more subtlety, and more complexity. Surely we have the deft handling of writer-director Nancy Meyers to thank for that. She also delighted audiences with 2003’s Something’s Gotta Give, pairing Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson in another example of a mature woman portrayed as successful, complex, and lovable, pursued by two men as she rediscovers her sexuality.
I’ve already stated my views on Sex and the City 2, a movie I expected to enjoy but found lacking. As for It’s Complicated, I was convinced I would dislike it, and instead, found it funny, satisfying, and ultimately upbeat.
Mature women in film
So what yields such a dichotomous viewing experience?
We could likely agree that Streep at her worst (if it exists) is wonderful, even in a romp like It’s Complicated with its far-fetched plot. Since when does an independent woman some 10 years post-divorce have an affair with her ex? And one who is married to the much younger woman he left her for?
Still, I succumbed to the deliciously talented cast and the movie’s considerable charm.
Steve Martin amuses us in a supporting role as a new suitor for Jane, while Alec Baldwin sparkles as the portly, flirtatious, and devilishly engaging philanderer who realizes what he lost a decade earlier. He doesn’t deny his age (or physical changes) any more than the lead character, Jane. But fundamentally, I credit Nancy Meyers and Meryl Streep with creating a woman who is authentic and endearing.
In short, she is a mature adult, who remains hesitatingly open to life’s possibilities. Like so many of us. She is vital, vulnerable, and irresistible. Might SATC writer-director Michael Patrick King have taken a lesson from Nancy Meyers’ book?
Light entertainment that enlightens?
Streep’s character is about joie de vivre, in her connections to her grown children, to her work which she loves, and in the warmth and laughter she hasn’t allowed to abandon her. While the film is light fare in general, it is also enlightening to those who believe that these qualities inevitably desert us as we grow older.
This is the context in which I suggested that any future SATC undertaking go with a Euro flow, looking to the likes of Helen Mirren, Catherine Deneuve, Nathalie Baye, and Fanny Ardant. These beauties are no less powerful or sensual in their forties, fifties, and sixties than they were in their twenties.
Foreheads without the benefits of Botox. Voluptuous, post-menopausal forms. Inherently female. These are women who are thinking, feeling, sexual – and mesmerizing on screen.
More reality, more women, more sex
It’s Complicated offers relationships with heart and humor, along with a multidimensional view of men and women as they age.
I want more. More women like Streep as Jane. More reality when it comes to adult characters. More sex, because many of us are more sexual as we age, and not less so.
I imagine this will require more female writers, more female directors, more willingness for Hollywood to put up the funds and gamble on the possibility that real women might enjoy (and pay for) portrayals of real women.
No one said it was easy. But is it really so complicated?
Image of Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin via http:ItsComplicatedMovie.com.