Archive for Nancy Meyers

Something’s Gotta Give

DVD (2003)  Written by Nancy Meyers / Directed by Nancy Meyers     STARRING: Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Frances McDormand, Keanu Reeves, Amanda Peet

(McDormand, Keaton, and Peet in “Something’s Gotta Give.”   Image: Columbia)

We first see the house of our dreams as the male lead and a female secondary character pull into the driveway. “The perfect beachhouse,” he says, in awe of the expansive cedar-shingled oceanfront home. We too are in awe, and giddily await the architectural delights beyond the front doors. The characters say a few more things — things that are probably pertinent to the plot — and then enter the “fabulous two-storey livingroom” which oozes both comfort and New York chic. We ooo, we ahhh, we don’t notice that the female character is removing her pants. 

Okay, yes, we do notice she’s removing her pants, but I just wanted to stress how gorgeous this beach house is. Just being able to admire the film’s set and settings for 128 minutes was, for me, worth the theatre ticket price for Something’s Gotta Give.  The script and the cast in this sophisticated romantic comedy by Nancy Meyers are unbeatable to begin with, and the addition of such a glorious set is like warm caramel sauce on an already delicious bowl of Ben & Jerry’s. It’s borderline indulgent, but I love it.

This Hamptons beach house belongs to divorced 50-something playwright Erica Barry (Diane Keaton).  Erica and her sister Zoe (Frances McDormand) had hoped to spend a quiet weekend at the beach, but that plan goes out the window with the unexpected arrival of Erica’s daughter Marin (Amanda Peet) and her 63-year-old boyfriend Harry Sanborn (Jack Nicholson).  Erica is put off by the age difference between her 30-ish daughter and the new boyfriend, and she and Harry clash. Things get weird when Marin and Zoe must return to the city, leaving Erica to spend a few days alone in the house with the cigar-smoking rap-pushing girl-chasing Harry. The situation is so tailor-made for laughs and romantic encounters that only a couple of chumps like  J-Lo and Alex O’Loughlin could screw it up.  The fact that Jack Nicholson’s charm is in the mix makes Something’s Gotta Give my top-of-the-heap romantic comedy favourite.

My friend J. says she doesn’t usually like Keaton because she is just so over the top when she’s acting. Yes, Keaton has really rubbed me the wrong way a few times, like in 2007’s  Because I said So, but in Something’s Gotta Give she seems to be in the zone. Keaton is at her best when she seems to be playing herself, and it’s been said by critics that she’s doing that here. I’m not suggesting Diane Keaton should be a one-trick pony, but if the saddle fits…

Anyway never mind all that. Did you get a load of Erica’s freaking kitchen? And her office. My lord, her office.

Sweet extras  Two words: Keanu Reeves. He appears throughout the movie as Dr. Julian Mercer, and as a love interest for Diane Keaton. Also to note is Frances McDormand: she’s the coolest romantic comedy sidekick, and I wish there had been more of her in the film, but alas, more time given to her would have probably meant less time for Keanu, and that is unthinkable.

If you liked this movie, you’ll probably  like  It’s Complicated, also written and directed by Nancy Meyers.

Good for who?  If you’re any kind of adult and you don’t enjoy Something’s Gotta Give, then you should have your head examined by the handsome Dr. Julian Mercer. I will just note that sexual references and scenes are numerous although not graphic, and the f-bomb drops two or three times. I know these things bother a few women who frequent this blog (no matter how artfully placed the cussin’ is), so I’m just issuing a little warning for you, ladies.

 

Loved this movie? Live this movie! Late night pajama-and-pancake party

(Keaton and Nicholson, sharing a late night snack.  Image: Columbia Pictures)

Erica and Harry are night owls and meet up in the beach house kitchen one evening for pancakes and conversation. It’s here in the smiles and looks they exchange that we realize these two really are attracted to each other. Before it can amount to anything (not even the pancakes come to fruition), Marin returns from New York and her lively presence and attention to Harry has a disappointed Erica saying she’s going back to her bedroom to write.  “You don’t want pancakes anymore?”  Harry asks — perhaps the saddest and most sweetly pathetic question ever uttered in rom-com history.  “No,” replies Erica quietly. “I don’t.”  Ouch. Shot through the heart.

Well, Erica Barry may not want pancakes anymore, but I do!  The movie gave me new appreciation for the idea of pancakes as a late-night snack. They’re delicious, filling and easy — plus the world is quiet after midnight and a little cooking and chatting is a great way for you to get to know or re-connect with your boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, roommate, child, neighbour, or anyone you might find  hanging around your yard at that time of night.  Keep the work to a minimum by using a good pancake mix instead of cooking from scratch. I use Aunt Jemima  buttermilk mix.

If pancakes seem too cheap and low-brow for your bourgeois tastes, don’t knock it until you try it. Hey,  Erica and Harry shunned leftover coq au vin for pancakes. Plus some toppings can turn pancakes into more of a highfalutin dessert than a breakfast staple.  Here are some quick and easy topping suggestions that require minimal effort (there are lots of fancy homemade syrups and sauces you can make, but the idea is to make it easy — no intensive cooking and boiling and fussing. It’s freaking midnight, afterall). Have the toppings alone, or mix and match with others from the list:

  • Maple syrup, of course
  • Blueberries (that’s what Erica was planning to use)
  • Strawberries
  • Pears
  • Peaches
  • Whip cream
  • Milk chocolate chips (on top or cooked right into the batter)
  • Chocolate or butterscotch syrup
  • Sugar with lemon juice (recommended on several sites online)
  • Applesauce
  • Jam (spread cold with a knife or warm in the microwave)
  • Yogurt
  • Powdered sugar
  • Peanut butter (cold or warmed and melted over the pancakes)
  • Ice cream
  • Cream cheese
  • Caramel
  • Honey
  • Bacon (quickly cook in the microwave and then crumble either on top of the pancake with syrup, or sprinkle the bacon pieces into the uncooked side of your pancakes while they’re in the pan. Top with a little maple syrup afterward.)

Do you have a favourite quick-and-easy pancake topping that I haven’t listed here? Let me know and I’ll include it in the list.

Paula Jane

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It’s Complicated

DVD (2009)  Written and directed by Nancy Meyers                                    STARRING: Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin  

(Image: Universal)

We meet the lovely Jane Adler (Meryl Streep) as the last of her three grown children is moving away from home. Considering the lonely days ahead on her Santa Barbara estate, Jane’s biggest dilemma is “Who will I watch The Hills with?”  She’s feeling a bit mopey, but overall, life is great: she owns a trendy successful bakery, and her kids adore her — not to mention she looks ultra-fab in her awesome purple reading glasses. It seems the only thing missing from this divorced woman’s life is a man, and it’s not long before she finds herself with two: her architect Adam (Steve Martin) and her intrusive-but-charming ex-husband Jake (Alec Baldwin). Jake’s married to the younger woman he left his wife for 10 years ago, but insists he never really got over Jane. As for Jane, she’s interested in her architect, but she’s also curious: would things be better with her ex-husband the second time around?

If you liked Something’s Gotta Give (also by Meyers), you will without a doubt enjoy this one too. Music and tiny snippets of familiar-sounding dialogue tie the films together in mood and tone without being too copycat. What I especially love about the most recent films of Nancy Meyers is that she takes me to places I’d love to be: the perfect beach house in the Hamptons (Something’s Gotta Give), a cozy English cottage at Christmas time (The Holiday), or Jane Adler’s terra-cotta tiled estate near the Pacific.  For Meyers, the homes must be gorgeous and the characters must wander about them, eating great meals and MarthaStewart-ing in the veggie gardens and markets. In Nancy Meyers’ world, not even the marijuana stinks. (I know that would have made Carl, my previous neighbour, a lot more tolerable.)

But what really makes It’s Complicated work is that the characters are all so likeable. There was even a moment when I felt for the hard-edged tiger-tattooed Agness (Lake Bell).  And as for Meryl, I never not love her—even when she’s as high as a kite or weirdly thrashing about in her Mamma Mia overalls.  The roles in this film seem tailor-made for the comedic timing of  Streep, Martin, and Baldwin, and the humour of this doomed love triangle is ultimately showcased in a second-act conclusion that is both gut-bustingly funny and deeply horrifying. I shall say nothing more except that it’s great fun.

Sweet extras  John Krasinski (The Office) plays Meryl’s soon-to-be  son-in-law. He’s too cute when he finds himself privy to information he wishes he never had.

If you liked this, you will also like Something’s Gotta Give, written and directed by Nancy Meyers.

Good for who?  An excellent choice for singles and couples, and a great one to watch with your spouse. If you’re watching in mixed company, be warned of the sexual content (frequent though not explicit) and some pot-smoking (though miraculously odourless).

Loved this movie? Live this movie! Croque monsieur

No, I’m absolutely not going to suggest you have an affair  with your married ex-husband, but I WILL tell you how to make a brilliant quick dinner, inspired by the movie. The dish is croque monsieur, which Jane makes for Adam one evening after meeting to discuss the architectural plans for her house.  Jane says she discovered the recipe for this toasted sandwich while living in Paris, and made the dish frequently because it was quick and cheap.

I combined several recipes to come up with one delicious and easy one.  It’s like a fancy-pants grilled cheese and very rich tasting and filling. Try it with a crisp side salad of grape tomatoes and romaine.

You’ll need:

  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • several tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 slices firm white sandwich bread—can’t be too soft. (You might prefer fresh bread you slice yourself)
  • thinly sliced Black Forest ham
  • slices of Gruyère cheese
  • ¼ cup grated Gruyère cheese
  • 2 teaspoons chopped green onions

Directions:

Have on hand a small saucepan and a large skillet. Preheat your broiler.

In a small saucepan, melt several tablespoons of butter. Add flour and stir, and gradually whisk in milk for one or two minutes. Bring to a boil on medium-heat until the sauce thickens, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the crusts from the bread if you like (I did) and build four sandwiches with ham and a slice of Gruyère between two slices of bread.

Heat a large skillet over low heat. Brush sandwiches with 1 tablespoon of melted butter on each side. Cook in the skillet until golden brown on both sides. Place the sandwiches on a cookie sheet, then smooth a light layer of sauce over the top of each sandwich. Grate cheese over the sandwiches, sprinkle with green onions, then broil until the cheese bubbles and begins to brown (should take about 3 minutes).

Tips:

  • Test sandwiches before you pull them out of the broiler. You want the bread to be toasty, not too soft.
  • To make the recipe cheaper, substitute a cheaper swiss or gouda cheese for the Gruyère.
  • While most recipes called for just a light grating of cheese on the top and slices in the middle, I put less cheese in the middle and more on top to get a nice grilled taste.

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