When it comes to movie consumption, there’s no truer democrat in America than the slightly inebriated airline passenger. You’ve observed it, I’m sure—how at a certain altitude, and after a certain number of Bloody Marys, every prejudice of class and gender begins to be dissolved; how in that strange and hurtling passivity the grandmother in the aisle seat will submit with a kind of rapture to The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, while the tattooed young man by the window gratefully dabs his eyes at the last frames of 27 Dresses.
Back down here, however—back on what John Prescott, a former British deputy prime minister, once referred to as “terra cotta”—the old divisions still obtain. Here the moviegoer sticks sourly and soberly in his or her demographic bracket, and the films of writer-directors Nora Ephron and Nancy Meyers are dismissed as “chick flicks.” But would the world be a better place if everyone who queued up this summer to see Inglourious Basterds had been treated instead to a surprise screening of Ephron’s Julie & Julia? After the initial bloodletting, I think it probably would.
Video: James Parker narrates his favorite scenes from When Harry Met Sally and What Women Want
Ephron and Meyers are tag-teaming us this year. As Julie & Julia dwindles from the multiplexes, and the hootings of Meryl Streep’s Julia Child grow faint, Meyers is hitting us with It’s Complicated. Passion reignited is the theme, and common sense perplexed. Jane (also played by Streep) is a successful divorcée and mother who in her radiant maturity begins to dally afresh with the man she split from 10 years earlier. Jake, the man in question, is played by Alec Baldwin. This is fitting: sooner or later, either Meyers or Ephron was going to have to deal with Alec Baldwin, to engage with the principle of preposterous virility that he has come to represent. Sitting at the bar with his ex-wife, his paw round a little glass of something or other, Baldwin-as-Jake is florid, potent, gloatingly and inflatedly masculine, like a genie who came out of a bottle of aftershave. “You look good, Janie,” he growls. “You always do. Your hair’s shorter.” “Longer,” she says. “I like it,” he says with finality.