Friday, July 16, 2010
Must-Watch Friday - It's Complicated
Modern Heat author Heidi Rice indulges herself with a wonderfully grown-up relationship comedy and poses the question - how come Meryl Streep just keeps getting better and better with age?
First of all, I'm going to admit that I was never a huge fan of Meryl Streep in her 1970s heyday when she was busy winning Oscars left, right and centre and being hailed as the next best thing since sliced bread power-acting wise. (Actually I'm not a big fan of sliced bread either, but that's a whole 'nother story!!) But boy, has Meryl grown on me... She's chilled out and livened up, and become the most likeable actress around — singing up a storm in Mamma Mia (her rendition of Winner Takes It All had so much heart and passion Pierce Brosnan wasn't the only one left stunned into silence!) and cooking up a storm in Julie and Julia (let's face it, coq au vin never tasted so good!). But even aside from her recent spate of winning performances, I think I've warmed to Meryl in a big way because she doesn't take herself too seriously, she looks fabulous and she's a woman of a certain age who's not afraid to grow old with pride, dignity and grace and no small measure of wit and vitality (Goldie Hawn and Faye Dunaway take note).
And after watching her latest romantic-comedy It's Complicated - about a 50-something woman dealing with the fall-out from a mad fling with her ex-husband Alec Baldwin - I flat out love Meryl Streep. I wanna be her when I grow up (actually I'm almost there too, but let's not mention that shall we!).
There are so many delicious elements to this comedy. It's smart, it's sweet, it's funny, it puts a 50-something divorcee centre stage (not a lot of those movies about these days), it invests time and effort in making it's characters three-dimensional and their predicament true to life and, best of all it doesn't fall into the now very familiar trap of going for easy laughs. Don't get me wrong, there are some laugh out loud moments — such as when Meryl goes to check out the possibility of an eyebrow lift (yuk!) — and even some great moments of refined farce — like when Alec is creeping around to spy on Meryl while she enjoys a date with architect Steve Martin. But there are a lot more laughs that aren't so easy — and are all the better for it.
What we have here is a beautifully nuanced tale of an older woman whose life is complicated but finally settled after years of heartache and reinvention. Her kids have left home, she lives alone in a big house but, after ten years, she has finally gotten over her divorce, and the fact that her husband left her and three kids for a much younger woman who he subsequently married. She's made a whole new life for herself running a thriving bakery business — and then has a moment (well, more than a moment actually) of madness the night before her son's graduation ceremony when she has a night on the tiles with said cheating ex-. And suddenly finds herself becoming 'the other woman'.
Yes, there's lots of potential for comedy there, but there's also lots of potential for tragedy and writer-director Nancy Meyers (of the equally intelligent Helen Hunt/Mel Gison rom-com What Women Want) doesn't shy away from that, but rather embraces it. Meryl and Alec's affair is wrong on so many levels, but also right on a few. Because these are two people with unfinished business which they finally have the chance to resolve, now all the pain and recrimination from their original break-up has cleared. And the fab thing is, Meryl's character is allowed to walk that fine line between comedy and tragedy with such wit and emotional maturity that all her issues are resolved in a really empowering way.
Suffice it to say, if you don't love Meryl too after watching this movie, I'd be completely gobsmacked.
Kudos should also go to Alec Baldwin who, unlike so many leading men of a certain age (Harrison Ford and Bob Redford take note here), is not only happy to look bad — playing a cheating rat with love handles to spare — but also manages to do it with boyish charm and a degree of self-awareness that is so hard earned, it's utterly heart-warming. And let's not forget Steve Martin. Who at first seems to have been drafted in to play the gooseberry, but then becomes rather more. When's the last time you saw him as a romantic lead? Not since Roxanne I bet. And he doesn't even need an unfeasibly large nose here to garner not only your sympathy but also your respect. And eventually beat the over-sexed and immature Alec hands down in the fancy-ability stakes.
So if you're in need of a pick-me-up — and especially if you've just noticed your eyebrows are sliding towards your chin (like moi!) — you should get yourself a cool glass of Chardonnay, get hold of this movie, sit back, relax, enjoy... And join my Meryl Is Magnificent (And Nancy Meyers Ain't No Slouch Either) Fanclub!
Heidi's latest Modern Heat Unfinished Business with the Duke is still available at the Mills and Boon website and comes out in the US in October as a Presents Extra. It's about a bad boy British Duke-cum-Italian architect called Giovanni Hamilton, a smart, sassy and ever so slightly destitute Islington pub-theatre manager called Isadora Helligan and a wild weekend fling in Florence where they get to resolve all their unfinished business and a few other things besides! Heidi's next book Surf, Sea and a Sexy Stranger will be out in December. So do come have a natter about romance writing, or romantic movies, or even sexy strangers on her blog, her website or her Facebook page.