A few years ago at the London Film Festival, Meryl Streep had something to say about film critics – specifically how male film critics largely outnumber female film critics and the effect that disparity has on how films are received, both commercially and culturally. She was talking about how we value women’s content, and while her example was about the movies, it can also be applied to books and television and performance and …well LIFE, in general, beyond the screen:
"The word isn’t 'disheartening,' it’s 'infuriating’. I submit to you that men and women are not the same. They like different things. Sometimes they like the same things, but their tastes diverge. If the Tomatometer is slided so completely to one set of tastes, that drives box office in the U.S., absolutely."
Today is the last day of Nancy Meyers Week at Vulture, an ambitious package by writer Rachel Handler who, it’s obvious, has been working on this for months. Meryl Streep has starred in a Nancy Meyers movie, It’s Complicated. And what Rachel has been doing all week with her deep-deep-deep-deep-dive into what she brilliantly coined the Nancy Meyers Cinematic Universe (NMCU) is exactly what Meryl was getting at five years ago: elevating a female filmmaker’s vision, elevating the Nancy Meyers’ vision, and arguing that Nancy Meyers is an auteur and deserves to be conferred as much prestige as male auteurs in the movie business. If there had been more Rachels doing this for many more years before she and other female film critics were able to fully make use of modern platforms, perhaps movies, music, and books and other forms of storytelling that appeal largely to women and girls would be considered with the same gravitas.
Which is the big point that Hallie Meyers-Shyer, Nancy’s daughter, missed when she decided to come for Rachel on Instagram and was subsequently checked. As Maria wrote in her piece yesterday, Hallie posited that Rachel’s analysis of her mother’s visual style (beautiful kitchens, comfortable couches, white cashmere, and taupe linens) was reductive. But if you’ve been following Nancy Meyers Week all week, you will note that in almost every single one of Rachel’s interviews with Nancy Meyers’ collaborators, they all talk about the obsessive attention that Nancy pays to the kitchens and the couches and the cashmere and the linens. The same obsessive attention that, I dunno, Wes Anderson pays to typewriters, bicycles, Adidas clothing, and f-cking record players.
Meryl herself was fixated on the same details when they were shooting It’s Complicated. Nancy once told a story about the kitchen in the movie.
“Meryl came into the set, she went, ‘This is too nice,’” Meyers recalled in a 2015 interview. “I went, ‘Oh no, is it?’ She said, ‘Let’s add water damage,’ so we added water damage to the ceiling.”
The other thing that comes up a lot in Rachel’s Nancy Meyers Week interviews with the actors who’ve worked on her movies is how many takes she needs. WHICH I LOVE. Stanley Kubrick very famously asked for a lot of takes. (One scene in The Shining was filmed 127 times.) Same goes for David Fincher. But those are directors who make “serious” movies. Be honest, because for generations we’ve been conditioned to see rom-coms as “light” art, you wouldn’t expect a high-take count to happen when they’re shooting a rom-com, right?
Wrong. When you’re telling stories about people falling in love, or falling out of love, or fighting with their families, when you’re telling any story that has something to say about our humanity (which should be EVERY story), why wouldn’t you want to try it over and over again until you get the take that specifically captures what you want to say, whether it’s about a man losing his mind in a hotel or a man with a split personality who fights capitalism by pummeling people in his basement, or two women trading homes in England and America for the holidays to recover from their breakups.
This is the truth that Rachel Handler has illuminated this week with her coverage of the NMCU. Rachel showed the sh-t out of her work by academically studying Nancy Meyers work. And… my GOD was this a gift for the holiday season.
Her interview with Rene Russo which was published yesterday is a whole gift unto itself. If you haven’t read it already, I’m jealous, because you are about to be delighted. Rene Russo is a SCREAM. And Rachel Handler gave that to us.
It’s actually almost too much what Rachel’s been giving to us, an embarrassment of riches. In addition to the interview with Rene yesterday, Rachel also put together a piece called “What It’s Like to Be Directed by Nancy Meyers” featuring commentary by, well, almost every big name actor who’s ever been in her movies – Diane Keaton, Cameron Diaz, Steve Martin, Anne Hathaway, Roman Roy himself Kieran Culkin, and even Robert De Niro, yes THAT Robert De Niro, one of the actors who talked to Rachel about how many takes he had to do for Nancy Meyers (even though she wasn’t making a too-f-cking-long movie about The Irishman) and about how much she cares about the CLOTHES and why he ROBERT DE NIRO also cares about the CLOTHES.
And then there’s a great anecdote from Adam DeVine about Robert De Niro included in the footnotes, which if you haven’t read the article yet, don’t forget to read the footnotes because Rachel’s gifts also show up there. So now she’s just flexing.
Nancy Meyers Week by Rachel Handler has been one of the great highlights not just of this week but of the year. And we may still have one more day? Will there be one more drop to wrap up Nancy Meyers Week? We shouldn’t be greedy, it would be more than enough if yesterday’s content concluded the package, Rachel’s done enough. We thank her for her service. I’m definitely watching The Holiday tonight. Then I’m chasing it with Father of the Bride and Father of the Bride 2.
Yours in gossip,