Nancy Meyers movies are different from just about any other rom-coms out there. They have a distinct style, sound, and feeling that no other director has been able to duplicate these days. Meyers’ daughter gets close, but not entirely there. (If you’ve seen Home Again you know what we’re talking about.) And while Nancy Meyers has written more than a dozen scripts, she’s only directed a handful of films – six, to be precise. Let’s take a look at her entire directorial body of work and see how they stack up against each other.
6. What Women Want
Definitely the weakest of her movies, and not just because Mel Gibson has become significantly distasteful to many people. As a film, What Women Want suffers from not giving its protagonist enough of a change from the womanizing liar he demonstrates so skillfully throughout the movie. Nick Marshall (Gibson) starts the movie as a man who is more than willing to slide from woman to woman in his personal life, while stereotyping and treating women in his professional life as if they don’t matter. And this is all supposed to be a product of him growing up with a Vegas showgirl for a mother. Yeah, it’s not entirely clear how they got to that conclusion, either.
Ultimately, as a film made early in Meyers’ career, this is an imperfect selection, as simple as that. It still has some enjoyable moments, and tons of that classic Meyers style, particularly with regards to the office of the Chicago Marketing company Nick works for, but it will probably always come in last on this list, no matter what else Nancy Meyers the director has in store for us.
5. Something’s Gotta Give
There are probably some people shaking their heads at this point, and that’s totally okay if Something’s Gotta Give is your type of movie. When watching all six of these films, this was one that felt lacking, but was still totally a watchable, Nancy-Meyers-feeling film. Something’s Gotta Give has all the trademarks of a Meyers’ film: a cornucopia of shades of white and beige, a pretty lovely kitchen, and some palpable, yet awkward chemistry between its leads, but it just doesn’t stack up to the films she has put together since. Even with Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Keanu Reeves, Amanda Peet, and Frances McDormand rounding out the principal cast, there’s still a little something lacking that her other films just have in spades.
This film, though, is immensely more watchable than What Women Want. Mostly because, even though Jack Nicholson’s character, Harry Sanborn, starts out as almost as much of a lothario as Nick Marshall, by the end of the movie, Harry has learned something he didn’t know about himself. Not only that, but he has become a better person for it. That’s the quality we all look for in a great romantic lead. Some humility and self-awareness, at least enough to be able to say when you’re wrong, and/or notice something in yourself you would like to change. This is a very fun romp of a movie, but in the end, it just doesn’t edge out our next contender.
4. The Parent Trap
Now, we’re talking about the early-2000s redhead Lindsay Lohan version of this classic Disney movie. Even without the true leads of this movie being a romantic couple, The Parent Trap feels so much more like a true Nancy Meyers film than either of our fifth and sixth place films. It has this insanely positive energy flowing through it from start to finish, even when things are hairy or not going the way the twins want them to. That energy is something we’ve always adored about a great Nancy Meyers film. Meyers is great at putting a pair together and bonding them through some mildly traumatic event, but it’s remarkable that even making that relationship secondary in a film, you still get that incredibly happy vibe here.
For a directorial debut, The Parent Trap did a fine job of not only reimagining the original 1961 film, grounding it in the new, modern time period. It also sets the standard for all Nancy Meyers’ directorial efforts going forward. You can see the beginning of her aesthetic through the use of architecture and monochromatic looks on her leads and principles. Even the ranch has a bit of that extravagant, yet simply classic look you can see in just about any Meyers film going forward.
3. The Holiday
Moving on into the top three, absolutely classic Meyers films that all have her signature aesthetic, the third ranking film in this list would have to be The Holiday. Not only is it a wonderful holiday-adjacent film, but it has not one, but two great romances in its runtime. Not to mention all the wonderful friendship moments throughout as well.
And that is one of the most underrated parts of Meyers’ movies. There are always friendships. Even when the romance is failing or the main character’s life is spinning out of control, there’s always someone around to help right the ship and get them back on track. The friendships in The Holiday are maybe even better than the romances. Because as much fun as it is watching Cameron Diaz’s Amanda and Jude Law’s Graham fall for each other, or Jack Black’s Miles sweeping Kate Winslet’s Iris off her feet, it’s even more enjoyable watching Iris bond with Eli Wallach’s Arthur. The Hanukkah party with all of Arthur’s friends is an exceptional moment. It’s an unplanned, spur of the moment get together that ends up spreading a lot of joy at one of the most lonely times of the year for singles.
Mostly, The Holiday shares Nancy Meyers’ affection for wonderful modern architecture and design, also adding in a bit of old English charm. The settings in this movie are almost as stunning as the cast and plot, moving seamlessly from Surrey to Los Angeles and back again. If this movie isn’t in your Christmas or pre-Christmas rotation, it’s definitely well worth a watch.
2. The Intern
If you’ve been sleeping on the simple, subtle charms of this delightful film, now’s the time to correct that. The Intern is Nancy Meyers’ most recent film, and it continues the trend of older generations having a lot to offer their younger counterparts. Starring Anne Hathaway and Robert de Niro, The Intern doesn’t really have a lot of romance at its core. Instead, it offers a world in which retirees are valued for their knowledge and passion for the world around them.
For every retiree that is happy to dive deep into their hobbies and finds themselves busy bees with extracurriculars and grandkids, there are probably a dozen that don’t have much to do and need an outlet for all their time, something to keep them going everyday. Ben goes from working 40+ hours a week and caring for his wife to having all kinds of time on his hands that he needs to fill. After exhausting himself with travels and family and Mandarin classes, he discovers a flyer that changes everything. He soon finds himself a valued member of a young entrepreneur’s startup.
Much like Iris and Arthur’s relationship in The Holiday, Jules and Ben’s relationship is the heart of The Intern. They both learn a lot about friendship and what the other has to offer in that department. Soon enough, they see just how much they really do need each other. And that doesn’t even touch on the lovely mentorship Ben begins with the young men in the office. He offers tips on everything from professionalism to romance and everything in between. This should honestly be a more common thing in business these days, as the older generations have a lot of experience under their belts, and they could probably use the vitality of younger professionals in their life.
1. It’s Complicated
The pinnacle of Nancy Meyers’ directorial career so far is It’s Complicated. The Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin star vehicle is chock full of everything that makes Nancy Meyers films so iconically hers. The style is in line with her trademark set decoration and production design, the costumes evoke that affluent comfort that is synonymous with any of her films, and the music is spot on her aesthetic. And we haven’t even gotten to the plot yet.
Not only does It’s Complicated hit on so many of Nancy Meyers’ technical filmmaking instincts, but it evokes the atmosphere of life and love and all the shenanigans in between, a common thread with all of her films. This family-oriented rom-com is expertly cast, not only in its leads, but also in the supporting cast. Steve Martin is perfect as the third cog in this love triangle, but it doesn’t end there. Adding John Krasinski, Lake Bell, Zoe Kazan, and Hunter Parrish to the principal cast, and boosting the full ensemble with a who’s who of incredible actresses to make up Streep’s character’s friend group, it’s easy to see why this film tops the list.
It takes full advantage of some wonderful romance tropes, while never taking itself too seriously or too trivially, either. It’s funny without trying too hard, and the characters all hit on some of the insecurities each of us have as we get older. More than anything, It’s Complicated gives a complete moviegoing experience by perfectly weaving elements of all the great genres together. The laughs are worthwhile, the smiles authentic, the tears heartfelt, and everything else will leave you wondering why Nancy Meyers doesn’t have a more extensive directorial slate. Perhaps writing is more her passion, but hopefully there are a few more great romantic comedies up her sleeve before she hangs up her directing career for good.
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