Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife
If you take the broadest view of porn, as that which stimulates desire, have I got a movie for you.
I know, films are meant to be fantasies, but this one — so deliciously lubricious in its parade of the pleasures older white women arguably crave — takes the cake. It even merited a New York Times Magazine cover story, written with a distinct wistfulness by its mid-life author, Daphne Merkin.
In it, the central character, Jane, played by Meryl Streep, lives in a house that’s about 3,000+ square feet, with a red-tiled roof, exquisite landscaping, a huge, immaculate jardin potager and a kitchen bigger than my living room. But (no recession here!), she wants an even bigger kitchen, the kitchen of her dreams. Oy.
She’s been divorced for a decade from her lawyer husband, Jake, who left her for a hard-bodied young’un (that part I believe) with whom he is now unhappy, (not quite clear why), who suddenly, ardently and insistently begins declaring he never lost his love for Jane (distinctly not clear why.)
It’s the ultimate revenge fantasy that the rejecting hubby comes crawling back. Gloss this with eyeball-rolling sex with him (good for her) and her memory of how to make his favorite meal (good for him) and the scene where they smoke a joint together; I guess this passes for deeply transgressive mid-life behavior somewhere since it won the movie an R rating.
Jane hires Adam, an architect, to design and create an addition (?!) to her gazillion-dollar home — the money coming from…?
Jane runs a bakery.
I wonder how many women: 1) snag and hang onto such a great house post-divorce, especially after their lawyer husband bails; 2) start and run a business so effectively they can afford such pricey real estate, let alone an addition; this film is set in Santa Barbara, home to such mega-celebs as Oprah herself; 3) raise three apparently solid kids, now 20, 22 and 27 alone yet 4) who still pronounce themselves shattered, a decade later, by their parents’ divorce.
It’s a pretty gauzy, Vaseline-on-the-lens vision of late middle age. Jane’s wardrobe is nothing but silk, linen and cashmere, the sort that’s always hard to find outside of pricey boutiques and fab gold jewelry; I admit it, I really want the necklace she wears in almost every scene and those yummy Pomellato amethyst earrings. No Target for her!
Now she’s fending off two guys at once, one of whom — sorry, I spluttered at this one — says “Your age is one of the things I find attractive about you.” If she’s so tough a businesswoman it wrecked her marriage, as Jake tells us it did, surely she might ask, “Really, why?” Instead, she melts with relief and gratitude that a guy with white hair and a fancy job is paying attention to her.
The sadder reality is that so many divorced women Jane’s age don’t run their own thriving business but instead are are scrapping out there in a crappy job market, also fighting age discrimination, can’t find a guy who isn’t looking at women 20 years their junior and usually plunge post-divorce into a much-reduced lifestyle (lawyer husbands tend to fight hard and well in this respect.) Many kids do actually find their feet young and quickly, as they must, when Dad splits for the much-younger woman, not pouting about it even after graduating college.
The movie has many terrific laugh-out-loud moments, but its central premise is as sweet and thin on sustenance as one of Jane’s chocolate croissants. She frets about never having sex, as though taking care of things herself wasn’t an option. And hasn’t she heard of match.com or EHarmony?
Her girlfriends in the film, all in their 50s, it appears, would have come of age in the 1970s at the height of feminism. They’ve somehow gotten all the material goodies.
But empowerment? Not so much.