You Are Such A Charming Older Person
by ALEX CARNEVALE
Nancy Meyers' new film It's Complicated begins with the most remarkable of conceits - a woman meets Alec Baldwin at an orgy. Known for her extraordinary skill at deflecting attention from the aging necks of Hollywood's finest, Meyers' second film, What Women Want, reimagined a decrepit oldster as a sex symbol who for some reason wished to press his wrinkles up against Helen Hunt's forehead.
I reminded someone recently about how much money Grumpy Old Men made, just before reflecting on how much I'd like to bathe in that money. Well, What Women Want is the most lucrative film ever made by a woman before Twilight.
Like Rob Schneider's classic The Stapler (seen below) the wacky uninspired Freaky Friday-esque premise of What Women Want explained part of its success. The magnificent Marisa Tomei's Italian sexuality was a key peripheral component, but the gimmick certainly helped.
Yet just as crucial a reason for What Women Want's success was glorifying the essentially horrifying presences of Mssrs Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt. These two partially mutated ad executives were truly the most unappealing people in film until Andrew Bulgaski movies. And yet Meyers was able to resurrect them as likeable fops that got ruined by that week's dry cleaning.
Much hay has been made about how men age more lucratively than women do on the screen, but thankfully technology has leveled the field. Everyone except for Keira Knightley and Morgan Freeman looks absolutely horrible up close in Blu-Ray. Haven't you wondered why Brittany Murphy's been laying low lately? Our secretary of state looks like she spent the last two months in the Sudan.
Meryl Streep is the charming protagonist of It's Complicated. In other roles she's rarely permitted to depict what she actually is - a woman with an earthy sexuality and flirtatious demeanor. In contrast, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, and Jim Krasinski are only able to portray themselves or characters perilously close to themselves. Even though Krasinski was playing a character other than Jim Halpert, he still looked at the camera at the conclusion of every scene.
The key to Meyers' success is that she is better than anyone else at creating characters very close to how we imagine famous movie stars would act if they had slightly different occupations and personalities. (Otherwise instead of a debonair, Diane-Keaton loving Jack Nicholson, we'd see the Roman-Polanski enabling, abusive alcoholic Jack Nicholson). This is a particularly difficult straddling act in the case of the repulsive Alec Baldwin. In It's Complicated he plays a former minister with a passion for blondes who charms Streep's character into committing a deadly murder. Martin plays his Rain-Man autistic savant brother.
Wouldn't this actually be an amazing plot for a film with the title It's Complicated? Although I have watched the preview for It's Complicated over seventeen times, I can make no actual sense of the plot. In this way it resembles the most misogynistic film of the '00s, Meyers' Something's Gotta Give. The previous record holder for most generic film title prominently featured the crumbling carapace of Jack Nicholson lurched his body on top of Diane Keaton's torso. This is the same Keaton character who says no thanks to Keanu Reeves' face and penis in her life and fancies herself a famous playwright named Erica. Somehow this is more believable than Rain Man meets Before the Devil Knows You're Dead?
Casting directors go through slumps just like baseball hitters. Nobody has the balls to tell someone to dye their hair or insert Botox. Sometimes wrinkles have a good day. Other times, they add to the savagery of the intercourse. Usually they just gross me out.
Maybe we will learn to appreciate age the way we have death. I'm proud of the way America has honored the filmmaking efforts of Clint Eastwood, who passed away at some point during Unforgiven. His movies about how other white people are racist both move and disturb my childlike sense of wonder.
"Tweeter and the Monkey Man" - The Traveling Wilburys (mp3)
"End of the Line" - The Traveling Wilburys (mp3)
"Margarita" - The Traveling Wilburys (mp3)