In a chat yesterday with Late Night screenwriter and costar Mindy Kaling, director Nancy Meyers (It’s Complicated, Something’s Gotta Give, Father of the Bride) struck back at critics who have taken her to task for making superficial “copper pots and white sweater” movies — i.e., wish-fulfillment romcoms about well-off women who live in swanky homes with luxurious, to-die-for kitchens.
“I don’t love [it] when a journalist or critic will pick up on that aspect, because they’re missing why it works,” Meyers complained. “It’s never done to male directors who make gorgeous movies, or where the leads live in a gorgeous house.”
As one who’s repeatedly brought up the copper-pot thing, I’ve never felt there was anything necessarily problematic about Meyers’ characters hanging out in spacious kitchens with gleaming copper frying pans, etc. The problem is that her romcoms rarely seem to rise above this fetishy focus or characteristic — they rarely dig in and climb up to the next level a la James L. Brooks in the’80s and’90s. With one exception (i.e., The Intern), her movies are primarily delivery devices for upmarket wealth porn.
Just about every Nancy Meyers movie involving a female lead of a certain age begins with Meyers saying to herself, “Wouldn’t it be wonderfully satisfying and exciting if…?”
Example: The romantic fantasy in It’s Complicated is that after a foxy older divorced woman (Meryl Streep) begins seeing an attractive new guy (Steve Martin) her re-married, somewhat girthy ex-husband (Alec Baldwin) gets the hots for her and starts cheating on his younger wife (Lake Bell) as they begin an extra-marital affair.
I didn’t buy this any more than I bought the basic plot of Meyers’ Something’s Got To Give (Jack Nicholson‘s randy music executive falling for Diane Keaton‘s affluent screenwriter as she’s courted by Keanu Reeves‘ young physician). In real life a guy like Baldwin would cheat on his new 30something wife with another young ‘un.
The point is that Meyers’ films are always about comfort — i.e., about upper-middle-class affluence, bright chatter, attractive lighting and an attractive older female lead getting to express how strong and soulful she is in the third act.
From my thumbs-up review of The Intern (9.25.15): “Meyers is just as much of a consistent and well-defined auteur as Michael Mann or John Ford or Samuel Fuller — she just makes movies that always happen within a realm of comfort, affluent insulation, alpha vibes and 40-plus romantic pangs. And so nothing rude or disturbing or creepy or traumatic happens, and you just have to accept that this is par for the course.
“A visit to Nancy Meyers Land means shutting out…what, 80% or 90% of the misery and aesthetic offenses and uncertainties and annoyances and dull horrors of real life?”