I want you to think hard for a second. I realize this is might be diametrically opposed to all the warm-holiday fuzzies you’re feeling right now. And those three gingerbread cookies you ate in lieu of lunch probably aren’t helping either. But here goes: When is the last time you saw a woman over 60 played the lead in a romantic comedy for a major studio?
No, not Diane Keaton. She was 57 when she made Something’s Got to Give. No, not Susan Sarandon. She was 58 when she made Shall We Dance? No, not Helen Mirren. She was 61 when she made The Queen, but while you may have swooned at her portrayal of Elizabeth II it was in hardly a fluffy rom-com. No, if memory serves me you have to go back to 1995 when, at age 61, Sophia Loren starred in Grumpier Old Men. And the men she was romancing were Walter Matthau (then 75) and Jack Lemmon (then 70).
So now, finally, add to that list Meryl Streep in her new romantic comedy It’s Complicated. Meryl turned 60 in June and is headlining the rom-com about a woman of a certain age who is pursued by not one, but two men. And these aren’t men 10 years her senior but Alec Baldwin (nine years her junior) and Steve Martin (only four years her senior). Wait, has Hollywood just gone age appropriate? In other news, hell has just frozen over.
As Meryl said in her new Vanity Fair cover story: “It’s incredible — I’m 60, and I’m playing the romantic lead in romantic comedies! Bette Davis is rolling over in her grave.”
The Vanity Fair cover spread helps to remind us what a great year — and three decades — Meryl has had through 30 years of portraits by photographer Brigitte Lacombe. This, women of Hollywood, is how you age gracefully.
Meryl in 1979 (left), Meryl in 2009 (right)
That Meryl Streep is a great actress is a given. That she is a great actress doing great work with even greater box office at age 60 is a gift. It’s not that women can’t be great into their sixties and beyond. Of course they can. It’s that Hollywood has a hard time acknowledging actresses once they enter their 40s. But there Meryl is, still playing the leading lady and — most important — still playing the leading love interest.
When It’s Complicated opens Christmas Day, it will close the book on what has been an extraordinary decade for Meryl. Of course they’ve all been extraordinary — from her early work in the ’70s through her domination of the ’80s with six (yes, six) Oscar nominations and her eclectic work in the ’90s. But there’s something about the aughts that has reminded the universe that it’s Meryl’s world and we’re all just happy to pay the cost of admission to see her rule it.