Sunday, January 24, 2016

Not to Be Believed

"A lot of movies are about life.  Mine are like a piece of cake," Alfred Hitchcock once said. 

Nancy Meyers is the 21st Century Hitchcock in many ways.  While Hitch hitched his sense of cinema/design/manipulation/aesthetic mostly on the thriller genre, cake-decorating the screen with posh, Technicolor, darkly romantic interiors (think North by Northwest, To Catch a Thief, Vertigo, etc.), Meyers creates a romanticism of conspicuous consumption, making romantic comedies/dramedies that feel both fairy-tale brittle and heavy-handedly delightful.  Her slice of cake is interior-design as fever-dream; each of her greatest films are elopements from reality, and yet so overtly realized and sumptuous as to blow your stinking mind.  I'm talking here mainly about the movies she's directed and written since 2003:  Something's Gotta Give, The Holiday, It's Complicated, and this year's The Intern.  All of these films are sentimental and bland and populated by talky, over-earnest, rich ladies and gents who have successfully created their own destinies through hard work and good living.  All of which would piss any normal moviegoer off, but somehow, due to Meyer's innate, obsessive tendency to manufacture a sincere and scrupulous universe you feel sucked into all her gorgeous business; you feel the pain and triumph of made-up bicoastal white-linen American aristocracy.  You want to be a Meyers-ite from the first glimpse of sunlight through Central Park trees, so iridescent and lyrical as to make you feel nostalgic for experiences you've never experienced, or the sun-drenched ceramic-tiled roofs of Santa Monica mansions undulating into the sunset, or the crisp, bright, efficient stylishness of a Brooklyn warehouse transformed into heavenly office-space.

I could go on.

Meyers, like Hitchcock, seems to be more interested in the stuff involved in making the movie than in the overall movie itself, meaning she has an almost perverted sense of objects, d├ęcor, things.  She's a fetishist in the most regal and Architectural Digest sense of the word.  Her camera lingers across tables, pillows, couches, Egyptian-cotton bed-sheets with a voluptuous voyeuristic slowness and ardor that reminds me of Hitchcock's slow and delicious lingering on lips, eyes, and lady-gloves.  You feel a world opening up inside a mind in Meyers' movies, a wish-fulfillment that somehow allows you access into another dimension where everything is so fucking beautiful you feel both alienated and welcomed home.  But it's not your home.  It's really nobody's home.  It's just some figment, some colossal cottage-castle in the Hamptons filled up with taupe fabrics and antiques and people drinking white wine at dusk laughing about how lucky they are, even though sometimes they get kind of sad because you know everybody gets sad sometimes.

I just saw The Intern, which might be her best.  Meyers captures a phony, gorgeous, intensely not intense NYC in it, with so much aplomb you might view it as some over-the-top parody of a tourist commercial for the Big Apple.  Perfection is not the word here.  The brownstones in it have a heft and grandeur not to be believed, and the office-space overseen by Anne Hathaway's Millennial Internet entrepreneur is a vast white-bricked labyrinth of ergonomic seating and long white tables for laptops and big mugs of tea.  You want to work there, especially because everybody just seems to be meticulously performing work, not really working.  And Robert Deniro, as the titular intern, a Baby-Boomer retiree with a benevolent sense of patriarchy spilling out of his eyes, is a beautiful, static study in sweet, handsome decency:  Deniro in The Intern, in fact, might be Meyers' ultimate piece of furniture, and I totally mean that as a compliment to both.

I want to have a Nancy Meyers movie-night soon, where everybody brings a big elegant throw pillow, a home-made cobbler, and expensive bottles of white wine, and we sit in chunky knit sweaters and act like we're the most important people in the world, while watching the made-up and yet somehow actual and more important people in the world experience all their First World problems on a lush and monochromatic planet called NancyWorld. 

It's a good goal to have.  Makes life worth living.

The office space in The Intern


The English cabin in The Holiday

Meryl and Alec in the NYC hotel bar in It's Complicated

The kitchen and dining area in It's Complicated

The Hamptons house in Something's Gotta Give

Robert Deniro and Anne Hathaway in The Intern