You’ve seen a Nancy Meyers joint at some point. Whether you were dragged to a theatre against your will, or whether you stayed up late sobbing, alone, in your pajamas, you are familiar with her work. She wrote both Father of the Bride movies, pegged Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton together in Something’s Gotta Give, hooked up Jack Black and Kate Winslet in The Holiday and masterminded the ultimate middle-aged love triangle of Meryl Streep, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin in It’s Complicated.
People say I write fantasy, but those slacker guys getting all those wonderful girls…to me that’s just as big a fantasy.
But the truth is, Nancy Meyers doesn’t just make romantic comedies. She builds on the celebrated tradition of Billy Wilder and Nora Ephron by subverting it, lightly, in her richly detailed, Pottery Barn catalogue worlds. Her movies are about people who just shouldn’t be together, or people older than you’re used to seeing onscreen or, in the case of her latest, The Intern, people who (spoiler alert, but also thank god) aren’t going to get together at all. Make no mistake, these days making a movie about actual human people is no small feat.
In The Intern, Robert DeNiro plays a retired company man who, at 70-years-old, goes back to work as an intern at a fashion startup run by the always-delightful Anne Hathaway. DeNiro’s character is as old-school as it gets, a man who carries a 40-year-old leather briefcase and doesn’t even own a pair of jeans, let alone a hoodie he’d wear to work. He’s a stand-in for the kind of masculinity we don’t see much anymore. Through DeNiro, Meyers isn’t just asking what happened to men, but what happened to the great men of the movies — what happens when Raging Bull is 70, and there’s no one to pick up the gloves?
“I think the slacker boy movies have had an effect on it,” she says, referring to R-rated bro-fests like The Hangover films, Horrible Bosses, and much of the Judd Apatow canon. “People say I write fantasy, but those slacker guys getting all those wonderful girls…to me that’s just as big a fantasy.”
She’s not wrong. And maybe it’s telling that Meyers and Apatow both trade in similar comedic tropes: long, breathing scripts, aspirational Architectural Digest-worthy interior shots, an emphasis on heart and emotional truth above all else. Which brings us, then, to Meyers’ other pet peeve, and one we happen to share: “Rom coms get a bad rap,” she says. “There was a period when they weren’t great. There was no substance in them and the characters weren’t great. But that’s changing.”
The rom-com, according to Meyers, was replaced by the bromance, and, we’d add, the comic book movie. But after a summer of dulling our brains one CGI space-mutant fight scene at a time, it’s incredibly refreshing to watch a movie that’s just people, talking to each other, often about their real, non-superhuman feelings. And being funny in the process. Just like Meyers has always done. Just like movies were always meant to do.
“I read something the other day that argued women can be funny in movies with women, and men can be funny in movies with men, but can’t we now see them being funny together in a movie? Wouldn’t that be refreshing?” What a concept.