Sunday, January 10, 2010

Article from the Winnipeg Free Press

Check out this article from Saturday's Winnipeg Free Press:


Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

I love my life, but oh, you kitchen
By: Alison Gillmor

9/01/2010 1:00 AM

It's Complicated, the latest rom-com from Nancy Meyers, might seem like a grown-up film. After all, it has grown-ups in it -- including women over the age of 45, a rare sight in today's Hollywood -- and it deals with real-world things like family and friendship.
But make no mistake, this SoCal fantasy is for 50-something women what Transformers 2 is for teenage boys or the Twilight saga is for teenage girls. It's pure escapism, and while romance plays some part in this, the purest form of wish fulfilment in Meyers' work is of the house-and-garden variety. Love is swell, Meyers seems to say, but marble countertops will never let you down.
The film's opening shots linger on the terra cotta roof of a 1920s Spanish-style bungalow in Santa Barbara. Meyer's almost erotic interest in tiles makes sense when you consider her oeuvre, which includes decor-porn classics like Something's Gotta Give and The Holiday. Meyers' characters and dialogue sparkle while the film is rolling but tend to evaporate like champagne bubbles soon after. Her sets, on the other hand, with their linen slipcovers, cashmere throws and tufted velvet ottomans, have amazing sticking power. People are still walking into designers' offices and asking for the Something's Gotta Give kitchen.
In that 2003 movie, Diane Keaton juggles dreamboat Keanu Reeves and serial womanizer Jack Nicholson. Never mind these kooky romantic problems, though. The real love object is Keaton's Hamptons beach house -- and by "beach house," we mean huge $10-million mansion -- an exquisite arrangement of shifting shades of ivory, sand and marine blue that was featured in Architectural Digest.
The Holiday (2006) is memorable mostly for its decor double act. Cameron Diaz lives in a Golden Age L.A. mansion designed by Wallace Neff, while Kate Winslet is holed up in a historic cottage in Surrey. To get over their respective broken hearts, the two women swap houses sight-unseen in what has to be the most successful international home-exchange ever devised. I think Jude Law and Jack Black are also involved, but I was too busy clocking the seagrass rugs and Colefax & Fowler draperies to notice.
In It's Complicated, Meryl Streep's character Jane Adler is a divorcee -- her husband dumped her for a younger woman -- with three grown children and a seemingly recession-proof bakery business. Jane's ex (Alec Baldwin) is now deeply unhappy with his skinny trophy wife and her monstrous toddler and wants Jane back. (I'm sure the fact that Meyers' 68-year-old former husband is remarried with three-year-old twins is just a coincidence.)
Diverting as this storyline is -- in a First Wives' Club revenge-fantasy sort of way -- it keeps intruding on the really important stuff, like Jane's reclaimed oak refectory table and her rambling vegetable garden. (Meyers' attention to detail is so exquisite that she used special effects to eliminate "spiky plants" in Jane's yard.)
Jane's kitchen, which snagged a layout in Traditional Home, features an eight-burner stove and a double oven flanked by open shelving -- something that never works in real life but in a Meyers film is an artful array of cream-coloured French crockery and porcelain cake stands. As fabulous as it all looks, in Meyers' terms this is just a makeshift room: One of the subplots is set in motion when Jane commissions "a real kitchen" from architect Steve Martin.
According to Meyers, all this fabulous decor is the medium that helps "soften the message" of her films. Unfortunately, the filmmaker's unerring eye for expensive stuff means that the medium has become the message. Whatever Meyers wants to say about older women's strength and sexiness and independence is overwhelmed by the fever dream of consumerist desire. Her women are what they own.

alison.gillmor@freepress.mb.ca
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 9, 2010 F3

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