Rom-coms come of age

Reese Witherspoon & Bobby Goldman.  Fantasy v. fantastic fact.  Film v. stage.  In common – these are two stories that give the finger to standard romantic comedies.

HOME AGAIN  –   Reese Witherspoon stars in this just-released film, written & directed by Hallie Meyers-Shyer, whose mother Nancy mastered romantic comedy when Hallie was still a toddler (It’s Complicated, Baby Boom, Something’s Gotta Give). But the daughter gives her story a decided spin away from her mater’s territory.

Home Again  is definitely a chick flick, but in this one the 40+ Witherspoon has a “hot & heavy romance with a younger man, and she doesn’t even apologize for enjoying it…  The woman is not some sort of creepy predator.  She’s actually just a woman & she’s appealing to a 27-year old man.”  No one would bat an eye if the roles were reversed, but in Hollywood this story probably came across to hardened script readers as way out there in fantasy land.

Reese disputes Home Again qualifies as romantic comedy (rom-com) – she’d call it a modern comedy, although I can’t figure out the difference.  She also has a bone to pick about the low ebb in films featuring women in genuinely lead roles.  “I grew up with Holly Hunter & Debra Winger & Diane Keaton & Goldie Hawn.  Where are the women who are the stars of their own movies?

Ah hem…  Those four actors have not slunk off to do community theater in Scarsdale or Pasadena.  They are right up there on the silver screen.  Along with Helen Mirren & Meryl Streep & Glenn Close.  So, come on younguns – films ARE being made with roles for strong female characters, they are just being written for mature women, not pre-menopausal chicks.

 

CURVY WOMAN   ~    Movies & the theater are paying attention to the richness of older female characters & actors.  Producers realize that they WILL bring in good audiences if the material matches winning performances.  How else to explain the success of Curvy Widow, an off-Broadway it about a 60+ widow facing the dating world.

Curvy Widow thrills me to my core.  Not because of plot line, songs or performances.  Because it shouts to the rooftops the qualities that hallmark so many 50+ entrepreneurs – her creativity is rooted in her personal experience (the death of her husband), necessity (to get past her devastated life), a willingness to take risks & to be wildly innovative.  All traits of older entrepreneurs!

The play’s material comes right out of Bobby Goldman’s personal experience.  Left  devastated by the death of her husband, playwright & screenwriter James Goldman (Follies,  A Lion In Winter), she seeks grief counseling.   Her therapist’s suggestion on how to move forward is echoed on stage – “Have sex.”  

As recently as the turn of this century, people would have squirmed at the thought of a joyfully sexually active 50+ woman.  (Some of my own contemporaries were shocked that my mother spoke tenderly of missing SEX with Dad.)  The new millennium saw an equally  new view of older women, showcased by Goldie Hawn & Susan Sarandon in 2002’s The Banger Sisters.  Over the past ten years, it’s been proved time & again that audiences were ready to consider Bill Nighy being swept away by Judy Dench.

Enter Bobby Goldman.

Bobby was telling a friend – who happened to work at Random House – about her online dating adventures (her handle – Curvy Widow).  The friend saw a great tale in her unconventional & exhilarating experiences.

Drew Brody, who wrote words & music for the show, heard about the Widow Goldman through a mutual friend & she sent him a writing sample from her Curvy Widow manuscript.  She was thinking “play” NOT musical.  When she heard his plans, she gave it an adamant thumbs down.  Brody was shocked at her response – he thought the material screamed MUSICAL!!  As attested to by the brisk ticket sales at the Westside Theater, he wooed & won the lady’s approval.

Veteran Broadway performer Nancy Opel could not resist a role in which she gets to play a 50+ woman embarking on a barrage of romantic encounters.  “Nobody writes shows about 50-, 60-year old women, unless they are crazy or terrible or drunk.”  Her character leads her male co-stars in a merry dance.

Art reflects life – the character of the husband dies in the the middle of the first number.  The audience gets a sense of his widow’s personality as she puts the charges for the funeral on her credit card, asking in wonderment, “You mean I could get miles?

Brody says that it was the first time he had to tone down a character – it seems that Bobby looms large.  And she makes no bones about preferring to date married men, although it leaves her dateless over holidays.  Her reasoning is simple – she finds widowers too needy & eager to return to old patterns.  (She does occasionally date single men, but not often.)

Bobby believes that a lot of 50+ women don’t want to give up the life they’ve carved out for themselves, want companionship but hold no desire for marriage.  It comes, for her at this point in her life, with too big a price tag – “I think I was a great wife because I did everything in the world for him.  I lost myself completely.”  Not any more.

Success comes with its own price, but one Bobby is willing to pay.  On a date at Peter Luger (sigh…  a dream destination of mine), the wait staff sent her over a bottle of Champagne, putting her date’s nose out of joint; he left.

I am sure she finished her steak (what else would you order at Peter Luger!?) & enjoyed every sensual bite. Bobby Goldman expects to have a good time & usually does.  Amen, sister!

What a day it was – 09/02/00

Today’s Mindwalker1910 posting celebrates the day before my 09/03/89 wedding.  Did Mom ever describe the actual day?  I don’t recall.  She said that the closer something was to her heart, the harder it was for her to describe.  She had NO problem sharing the fun we had over the long weekend that contained that Day of Days – also on a Sunday!
 
Subj: What a day it was, eleven years ago
Date: Sat Sep 2 22:59:04 EDT 2000 
Another hot and steamy day today. It is such different weather from what we had eleven years ago. Of course, even if it had been as uncomfortable as this weather, I might not have noticed. 

 

The day before John & Elsa’s wedding paired a lot of events with a relaxed attitude. Elsa had a definite mental image of what she wanted her wedding to be like – like Meg & John’s, in Little Women – and Saturday, September 2, 1989 reflected it.

I remember months before, when Elsa got a letter from Peggy soon after she and John had announced their engagement. I was napping in my room; she sat down to read it to me. She had hoped Peggy and Jack could make it to the wedding, but was prepared to understand if they could not. 

“They’re coming!” she yelped. 

Continuing to read, she practically leapt out of her chair. “And Jim and Renee are coming!!!” 

And a few seconds later, “And so is Karen!!!!” 

I threw off the covers & jumped up, then we did a little dance of joy around the bedroom, we were both so stunned and excited. 

All of the Peddicords came and all of the Ripleys, even David. The Ripleys had not seen Karen Peddicord Jackson, who lives in Nevada, for many many moons and ended up flying on the same plane all the way from San Francisco without any of them realizing they were in the same cabin with a Reynolds clan cousin. 

Saturday was filled with family and friends and magical moments. We had a smile-filled breakfast with the Peddicords. Jim & Renee and their girls and Karen were all staying at the nearby Marriott, but Jack & Peggy were camped out right across the street from our house, at Donnette and Garth Glenn’s (they gave us the use of the hall since they were at the shore that weekend). 

Elsa put the finishing touches on the nibblings and sippings she would serve that afternoon at a tea honoring her bridesmaids and all the women who had done so much work on her wedding. She was happy and calm. She also put the finishing touches on the Groomsmen’s Party that would be held at the same time across the street. The bride was a busy lady.

I cannot remember a single thing about the rehearsal. I know I was there, but not a thing comes to mind. 

After the rehearsal came the tea party and I do remember a lot about that. So many women and, of course, her four bridesmaids – Whitney, who was her maid of honor: Karen, who was her senior bridesmaid; Mackenzie Pitcairn, who’s been dear to our hearts since she was born; and Jamie Reeves, one of the children Elsa “baby watched”. Not a one was from Bryn Athyn, PA – Whitney was in her 2nd year at Barnard in NYC, Karen hailed from Australia, Mackenzie was living in Iowa and Jamie was just “down the street” a piece in Jenkintown. 

It was a happy, humming group that gathered afterward at our house. 

Elsa had ordered a beautiful cake from her favorite bakery – Bredenbeck’s in Chestnut Hill. Peter, who did an incredible job of being everywhere he needed to be plus a few places more, picked up the cake that morning along with a generous assortment of wedding day breakfast goodies the bride had ordered from Rolling in Dough at the Farmer’s Market. 

It was a really beautiful cake. Elsa had the four girls put their hands on hers to cut the first piece, which she gave to yours truly. Each of the girls were given a book – Ophelia’s World, A Little Princess, A Secret Garden and Corgiville Fair – and a box, each picked out for each girl. Each woman was given a Christmas ornament that Elsa had spent hours picking out, tailoring each gift to its recipient.

Even all these years later, I still feel gypped that while I took an after-party nap, Peggy, Karen and Elsa hightailed it across the street to the men’s party and had a high old time. 

Supper was take out – a Chinese banquet. John went to pick it up from China Bowl in Rockledge and Pam opted to go with him, to get a better idea of this fellow. 

While they were gone, the rest of us watched a video made earlier that summer of Peggy & Jack’s 40th (I think it was their 40th) surprise anniversary party out in Missouri. The guests were squirreled away out of their sight and the night before the party, we all gathered for steamed crabs which friends from Baltimore had flown out. The video said it all – while everyone around me was talking back and forth, there I was, happily picking my way through a great heap of crab. It was so much fun to watch the video with the whole family around, the Peddicords and myself giving a running commentary. 

One of my all-time favorite photos was taken by Elsa that evening. It is of Peter, Peggy and I, dishing out the Chinese food and laughing with complete happiness. It is a marvelous picture and captures the feeling of the evening. 

I almost forgot that Robert and Sue Smith, our neighbors, had us over earlier in the evening for cocktails. The whole of “Smithville” was in fine fettle. I called our cluster of abodes “Smithville” because Julie & Eunice Smith, Willie Smith, Phil & Mina Smith, and “Po” & Sue all shared our driveway. Smithville indeed.

Eleven years later, am still smiling at the memory of so much love and easy going happiness. That time felt and feels like it was other worldly, a gift to us all from a heavenly Host. Everyone made it happen and everyone seemed touched by its beauty and spiritual grace. I was, and am, blessed to have been part of it. 

I remember Lockharts and Peddicords and one Murphy lolling around the living room that night, having a high old time. John’s best man was there, too. It was another happy, happy day – and the best was yet to come.

Am off to what I am sure will be happy slumbers – Mrs. Raymond Lewis Lockhart

Brothers

It’s sad when family relationships – even the rockiest – are stunted, cut short.  My own life is much happier for having kept doors open,  even when a better something seemed an impossible hope.

Been thinking about brothers a lot over the past 24 hours, about mine & how different our relationships have turned out than I would have guessed just a shade over ten years ago.

In 2007, I didn’t feel like I had any deep connection to any of my three brothers.

That changed first with the most improbable of the trio – with Ian, who died almost 60 years ago, when he was eleven & I was seven. Ten years ago this past spring.  – when I was 55 – we bonded.  Seriously!  I’d always assumed that Ian was as different from me as the rest of my sibs, but thanks to a combination of discoveries & fresh aha moments I made that spring, for the first time it clicked that “B-Boy” & I had similar natures & mutual  interests.

For years, a family joke has been that I married my brother, because my John seemed so much like Ian, but it took stumbling across those report cards & befriending a litter of feral kittens for the light to dawn that Ian & I were more alike than I’d ever imagined.

Ian was just four years older, while brother Mike (#2 🔆) was a long-stretch ten.  Mike joined the Navy straight out of high school, a couple years after Ian’s death, then bopped off on world travels between stints working for our father at Lockhart Lumber & Millwork.  I never really connected with my brother in his footloose & fancy-free days.

Alas, he married someone who – unbeknownst to me – experienced her younger s-i-l  as beyond irksome.  Took me 27 years to discover (the hard way)  what Mom knew since the early ’70s – that I stirred such deep dislike, as soon as I entered the same room, Kerry wanted to walk out.  OUCH!

When Kerry is not in the picture – when she  returned home to Australia a week before Mike after an early ’90s Christmas visit & when he visited solo several years ago for his 50th high school reunion – we connect.  Who knows where we will be ten years down the road?  Like MOTEL 6 , John & I will leave the light on.

Which leads to Peter.  Fourteen years older, it would be easy to assume we had the least contact over the years.  If only!  Peter has been a more or less constant presence throughout my life, weaving in & out of stays as his life circumstances ebbed & flowed, but always letting it be known  innate superiority put him on a different plain from us lesser lights  Peter talked big, but his life – to his baby sis – seemed… meager.  We had our share of dust ups – he expected to treated like a guest instead of a member of the family & I expected him to pull a fair share – but they’re back in the past.  Too little time left to waste any acting mingy.

While my relationship with Ian has improbably strengthened & deepened, am resigned to the possibility Mike & I might never connect as bro & sis.  As for Peter… It doesn’t matter to me that he still strikes his “kiss the ring” attitudes – if he wants or even just needs my support, it will be my sisterly pleasure to do what I can.

At 65, having lost more immediate family than remain, I’ve come to a place where just being a sisterly presence is enough- in fact, it is way more than I’ve expected over the years.  This mellower me is content with ALL that is, holding a sister’s love for near, far & in lofty realms beloved brothers.