Love or hate their recent movies, it's hard to ignore that Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock are having a commercially robust moment—giving more than one observer hope that the tide is turning for Hollywood women over 40.
Both actresses got nominated twice for Golden Globes yesterday. As Reuters points out, Bullock, 45, didn't appear in any movies last year and only one in 2007. But The Blind Side and The Proposal have both been hits. Meanwhile, Streep, 60, is the romantic lead in It's Complicated, a heavily-promoted movie opening Christmas day, after recent lauded turns in movies like Julia & Julia and Doubt. Speaking to Reuters, an industry analyst sees a refutation from the conventional wisdom of women onscreen and in audiences:
"Older women is a category Hollywood has written off, but this proves that nobody knows nothing. No matter all the surveys they take and all the focus groups, someone can come along and have their greatest success at this point in life," said Pete Hammond of awards website www.The Envelope.com
Many studio executives have been privately convinced that it wasn't worth even a modest budget to make films about women, particularly older ones, and they seem stunned that a series of movies about middle-aged women racked up such enviable grosses. "The problem isn't just the fact that studios forget that movies about or aimed at women have an audience-they honestly don't know how to market them," says Nora Ephron, who wrote and directed Julie & Julia. "What they know how to market are movies aimed at teenage boys. I don't think my movie would have been made without Meryl."
Even those who are unimpressed with what Nancy Meyers has to offer women (or audiences in general) can marvel at the change, at least when it comes to Streep: Fifteen years ago she was considered too old to play Clint Eastwood's romantic interest in The Bridges of Madison County. ("There was a big fight over how I was too old to play the part, even though Clint was nearly 20 years older than me," she tells Bennetts.) Now, in what may or may not be Meyers' frothy fantasy (more on that later today, regarding Meyers' upcoming profile in this weekend's The New York Times magazine) both Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin are chasing her onscreen.
Whether all this is a sea change or just more indication of Streep's exceptional status as Greatest Living Actress (I don't have an explanation for Bullock, but I welcome theories), proving that women will go to see movies if there's something worthwhile for them to see is a good start. And if It's Complicated is the success it's pegged to be, there will be even less of an excuse for Hollywood to pass the buck on women-directed and aimed films, starring a greater range of actresses.
On a side note, the Vanity Fair piece notes approvingly that Streep is un-Botoxed and refuses to get plastic surgery. So why did they have to make her look like she did on the cover? Streep herself, looking over portraits that Brigitte Lacombe took of her over the years, says this one is her favorite, "because they scraped all the crap off my face." Ours too, but guess Vanity Fair thought newsstand buyers would balk if they saw what Streep actually looks like. Change starts at home, guys.
Something About Meryl [Vanity Fair]
Meryl Streep, Sandra Bullock Enjoy New Lease On Career Life [Reuters]