The Hot Seat – Nancy Meyers

I came late to Nancy Meyers. Sure, I saw a couple of her films in the theatre, but as a kid there were things I just didn’t find appealing in her films. Alec Baldwin’s ass, romantic comedy, none of that appealed to young me. I was more interested in action, robots, aliens, and sci-fi. While I may still seem like that’s my thing, I definitely wound up being able to appreciate her work and even understand the structure of her films. While I may not be well-versed in her particular genre, the specifics of her filmmaking skills are similar to Kubrick if instead of one-point perspective and parallelism he was interested in shades of beige in a sweater vest. Seriously, the woman is so specific and her efforts are something I finally learned to appreciate. 

Let’s get down to business. 

6. What Women Want [2000]: Thanks, I hate it. Look, this is the one of her films that doesn’t fully feel like something she was interested in. Nonetheless, she used it to get the clout in Hollywood to make whatever she wanted to. The film revolves around Mel Gibson, a complete asshole that pushes those around him into whatever mindset he needs to get what he wants. Now here’s the thing…am I talking about the man or the character he plays? Turns out it’s both, as the character is an absolute douche and his redeeming quality is that Mel Gibson charm and swagger. Now maybe all of us would benefit from a Helen Hunt, but Gibson’s character more or less just learns that he needs to…be a human being? Consider the people around him to be human beings? It’s a highly problematic film that feels the least involved in her particular oeuvre, but one that guaranteed her success going forward. I hate this film, but I love what it cemented for her.

5. It’s Complicated [2009]: Look, Alec Baldwin’s ass may be enough for some but it wasn’t enough to get to the top of my list. That said…this film is kind of special. I never really appreciated Meryl Streep until I saw this, alone one night trying to keep up with a podcast I love and therefore binging Nancy Meyers films. There’s something special about a movie like this, one that allows two older people to revel in their age and proposes that they can hit a second wind in their lives as mature adults. Most films we get are shared amongst young, sexy starlets that look pretty together. Turns out the word to eliminate there was “young” and boom, you’ve got yourself a film! While Baldwin and Streep run circles around the rest of the cast it’s not like they fail. You get gems like John Krasinski, Zoe Kazan, and Lake Bell. I have serious issues with the film as it gets a bit…silly, but the main message and performances elevate it enough to be something I actually enjoy. Oh, and Steve Martin plays a milquetoast version of himself. If that isn’t enough for you to at least be curious…I don’t know what is.

4. Something’s Gotta Give [2003]: Look, it’s a rom-com about people in their early 60s and it starts with “Butterfly” by Crazy Town. You know this shit is wild from the get-go, and sticking with it from there just lets you appreciate the idea that as an older individual you can find romance. Meyers is a divorced woman, and as such almost all of her films function as stories about women in their 50s/60s that are able to move forward and find a new life in their autumn years. What really gets me going about Something’s Gotta Give is that she tamed Jack Nicholson. That’s no easy feat, as the man is a wild card that works best when his manic energy is allowed to come forward. He’s worked with Tim Burton, Michelangelo Antonioni, Stanley Kubrick, George Miller, Dennis Hopper, and Milos Forman, and yet it was Nancy Meyers that was able to chill him out and create a character that wasn’t over the top and wild. Sure, he’s a horndog that dates women under 30 while he’s in his 60s, but then we enter the magic of Diane Keaton. I will make no bones about the fact that the woman who played Annie Hall is a crush of mine, and her absolute charm and sweetness is something that carries the film. She’s not all rounded edges, and she takes very little of Jack Nicholson’s shit after finding out he’s dating her daughter (played by the very charming Amanda Peet), but there’s an adorable bit of levity to her character that balances out the gross old man she’s paired with. Look, it’s great. 

3. The Intern [2015]: Yep, I enjoy this workplace comedy quite a bit. The premise is simple. What if Robert DeNiro, distinguished man of a certain age, was…an intern!? Seriously, though, it’s an absolutely charming and and complicated little film that involves such nonsense as DeNiro with a boner, Anne Hathaway being married to the most unloveable person in a Nancy Meyers film, and Christina Scherer as maybe THE most uptight person in a film from the last twenty years. Most people skipped this in theatres. Oh, it made money, but it’s one of the wild moments where somehow nobody saw it and few people like to acknowledge it. That’s their loss, because I find the idea of two work friends coming together and being there for each other highly addictive. Having lived in relationships like that I can very much attest to what they feel like, how supportive they can be, and how often they occur despite the fact that most pop culture would have you wonder if it can only be a sex thing. Nancy Meyers films are basically calming CBD gummies, and this one is 500mg baby. 

2. The Holiday [2006]: Look, Kate Winslet in anything should qualify as a delight, but how about a film attempting to posit that Jack Black can be a charming and sexy romantic interest? The Holiday suggests that someone in LA and someone in Britain can swap lives, interacting with each other’s hometown dynamics and learning to get out of their toxic relationships and find something new. That’s right everyone, it’s a movie about falling in love with your rebound! Jude Law is, as always, a complete and total snack in this film and couples him with Camron Diaz at her most manic. On the other side of the pond (see how I made that cute and clever turn of phrase?) we’ve got Kate Winslet and Jack Black, the latter of which is daring enough to scat-sing his way through so many film scores that at one point my brain shattered and I achieved either Nirvana or dementia. There’s a lot about this film that could really put someone off, with the 135 minute runtime being the biggest, but I just find it charming and cute. I constantly find things to love about it and it’s one of the only rom-coms that is set in regular rotation amongst my film list.

  1. The Parent Trap [1998]: Look, it’s not her best work. I can admit that, but I can also qualify that it’s my favorite! This is the first Nancy Meyers film I saw in theatres, and I think it’s far superior to the original Disney Film. We’re blessed with things like Dennis Quaid being an absolute hot dad, Natasha Richardson in one of her few starring roles, and the birth of Lindsay Lohan’s stardom. Sure, that last one came with an insane fallout that destroyed the poor woman, but the film lives in this odd limbo between the modern Disney remakes and the classic revival era. Meyers once again works with a divorced couple, but here she’s optimistic and adorable. The whole film revolves around beautiful homes, gorgeous lifestyles, and stunning displays of physical comedy. It’s a childhood favorite and yeah, that gave me a bias toward it, but it’s still an amazing look at a sweet little film from early in her career that gives you a lot of glances at what’s to come.

And that’s my Nancy Meyers list! If I were allowing films I wrote I would have included both Father of the Bride films, but that’s outside of my ruleset and so I’ll save those for another day. Those that haven’t given Nancy a chance…do it, you won’t be disappointed.

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