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Rom Coms leave me cold. It’s the predictability that bores the ass off me…slightly spotty, wildly intelligent (and beautiful…when she takes her specs off) gal meets popular jock (who has a brain and compassion hidden under those biceps). There’s a misunderstanding about the Prom. They argue. They hate each other. It’s New Year’s Eve. She gets the ‘flu. He brings her Lemsip. They get married. Yawn.
Up their ages 30 years and I’m glued to the screen, throwing popcorn in the general direction of my mouth…widowed mother of 2 meets recovering alcoholic, who is trying, unsuccessfully, to reconnect with his estranged son. She struggles to cope with her stressful job and difficult kids (one of whom has a drug habit) and hits the bottle. He takes her to AA. They fall in love, but don’t get married because it’ll affect her pension Now, that’s altogether more interesting.
Midlife movies often feature characters in a process of change, who are reinventing themselves, who are struggling with life – and rarely come with a sugar-coated ending all tied up neatly in ribbon. Which is why I love them.
Here are 8 great midlife movies
The OCD one – As Good As It Gets
Jack Nicholson is at his most grumpy as the OCD New Yorker and Helen Hunt her most sassy as the waitress with the less-than-perfect life. It all comes together when Greg Kinnear, the gay neighbor, accompanies them on a road trip.
I want the dog and the SAAB convertible and to be Helen Hunt’s friend.
When the credits roll you just know the relationship is doomed to failure but you wish them well because it’s just so right, right now.
The Get the Kleenex Out One – Manchester By The Sea
Long story…but basically, Lee Chandler’s (Casey Affleck) life is rubbish. He is a loner, consumed by guilt over the death of his children and when his brother dies he is made guardian to his teenage nephew. Not an easy watch but blimey it’s brilliant. Michelle Williams (the ex-wife) is spellbinding in a 3-minute scene when she tells Lee that she forgives him. Man-sized tissue time.
The Independent British One – Le Weekend
Meg (Lindsay Duncan) and Nick (Jim Broadbent) are off to Pairs to celebrate their 30th anniversary. He hasn’t fulfilled his potential and has become dull, while she’s miserable and snipey. They realistically fight and argue and laugh their way around Paris as the backstory unfolds.
You make my blood boil like no one else,” Meg says; “That’s the sign of a deep connection!” Nick retorts.
Do they hate each other? Yes.
Do they love each other? Yes.
The Girl Power One – Thelma and Louise
Long before the Spice Girls told us What We Want. What We Really Really Want, Thelma and Louise showed us how to dump the life you hate and go on a wild ride to look for the life you want. Another Road Trip but this time it’s the gals that are firmly in the driving seat. Funny. Feminist. Fiesty. And before it’s time. Also worth watching for a very young Brad Pitt as Thelma’s one nightstand cowboy. Yee Haw!
The Other Girl Power One – Under the Tuscan Sun
Oh, I just love this. It satisfies every woman’s secret reinvention fantasy.
It tells the tale (based on a true story) of newly divorced Frances Mayes’ (Diane Lane) impulsive decision to dump her life in San Francisco and buy then renovate a dilapidated house in Tuscany. Our plucky heroine encounters endless problems, a bit of mysticism, lots of unusual but gentle souls and a smattering of romance. It’s the perfect movie a rainy Saturday afternoon when it’s just you, the sofa and tea and chocolate.
The On The Edge of a Divorce One – Hope Springs
Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) have been married forever. He’s indifferent and she’s bored so she persuades him to attend a weekend retreat with a renowned marriage counsellor (Steve Carell) who is based in the aptly named town of Great Hope Springs.
This one does end neatly tied in ribbon but it’s a fun getting there. And it is much better than It’s Complicated.
The Guy’s One – About Schmidt
Jack Nicholson is being grumpy again when he plays recently widowed and recently retired Warren Schmidt.
Warren is feeling useless and decides to take a road trip (I think I might like Road Trip movies!) to visit his daughter and persuade her not to marry Randall, a loser. During the trip, Warren starts to question everything – his life, marriage, the past and what the future holds. The movie ends with Warren getting in touch with his feelings, with the help of a letter from Ndugua, a 6-year old Tanzanian boy that he sponsors.
Sounds grim but is very funny.
The Really Really Good One You Might Not Have Heard Of Living Out Loud
Judith Nelson (Holly Hunter) thought she had the perfect marriage, until her husband walked out. Depressed and lonely she holes up in her apartment, drinking wine and nursing revenge fantasies. One evening, after drinking too many martinis in a nightclub she forms a connection with Pat, (Danny DeVito), the elevator operator in her building who is just as lonely as she is.
Pat falls in love with Judith but we all know that ain’t gonna work but what does work is their friendship and mutual support as they help each get on their feet and find their own individual Happy Ever After.
Any favourites that I‘ve missed?
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