Movie Real Estate: House & Garden, The Movie

See Jane juggle. See Jane tumble, into bed…and be the object of two men while in her 50s. Meyers creates the ultimate fantasy movies for women. Jane is a mom, girlfriend, garden hobbiest, mistress, gal pal, hostess with the mostess, owner of a thriving bakery, and therapy patient. Most of us can relate, mostly. Her balancing act reflects what most of us deal with: many roles. But Hollywood casts a sheen of sugar coating over all of it, and it’s like looking at a glistening sugared fruit bowl. You want to pick at it, even steal from it, but you know hers is a life of unattainable surrounding beauty that is just meant to look at.

The token photograph showing several of the luxury materials in Jane's environment.

Let’s start with the environment of perfectly chosen materials which create an aire of casual serenity, where barely a square inch of floor is ungraced with sisal, no window untreated with glazed linen. In the comfort of her rambling, terra-cotta-shingled ranch, Jane bathes in a claw-foot tub (which we love) and dines atop gray-veined Carrara marble. You want for her to find love, if only to have someone to admire it all with her. You hanker for one of her homemade chocolate croissants, afterall we believe she can actually make them. But something about Nancy Meyers films, I just wish I was holding a gift-registry scanner.

But Hollywood is Hollywood because they “do aspiration” so well.

Jane actually lives in the fictional space of It’s Complicated, the film starring Meryl Streep and directed by Nancy Meyers. Meyers’s movies (Something’s Gotta Give, The Holiday) have earned her a cult following among the design-porn set; the Hamptons beach house from 2003’s Something’s Gotta Give was a sensation—it even inspired a headboard collection for Williams-Sonoma Home. But It’s Complicated sashays into theaters at a very different time. Before Home Depot closed its tony Expo Design Center, before “HGTV” became a slur for compulsive nest-feathering, Meyers’s Hamptons set was termed “aspirational.” Now a quarter of mortgaged American homes are underwater, and movie montages about cashmere sheets are an irksome reminder of how we can’t afford them.  This is our generation’s Hollywood glamour.

Gone are the glossy titans House & Garden, Vogue Living, Domino, Metropolitan Home, Southern Accents, and Cottage Living (for which I wanted to light a candle), all boarded up alongside the housing market. In fact, It’s Complicated appears in December’s Traditional Home, where a “real” home might once have been.

What has irked me as elitist and exclusionary though, attracts me as well and has turned into an asset, and not just for Meyers. A Single Man is like so many of director-designer Tom Ford’s glossy ad campaigns: it may be one page deep, but you almost don’t notice amid all the brooding, the sexual tension, and the va-va-voom ’60s ambience. Nine’s fizzy Fellini redux is Chanel No. 5, all-Marilyn musk, and Harlow ostrich feathers. Are these great movies? Unfortunately not. They are design porn. Their over-the-top tableaux distract the heck out of me (as opposed to serving narrative purpose, in the way MadMen’s visual experience leaves shadows for the viewers to bring meaning in the absence of a chatty script; true hollywood glamour). But it almost doesn’t matter. Escapism is all too enticing right now, and no one takes you out of your own head like Hollywood—witness the $10 billion record-breaking box office for 2009. For proof you can really take to the bank, look (yes, look) at Avatar. Even its most ardent fans dismiss the plot and writing—the bad guys are on the hunt for a rare ore called unobtainium. Wow. I would have loved to be in that pitch session. Yet this is a world built on flowing, gossamer, almost tactile beauty. Director James Cameron takes even the most ordinary hunk of blue rock (the über-literal unobtainium) and spotlights it in the manner of Ming porcelain.

It’s amazing what a little light can do. The destruction of the world never looked so good. When there’s less magic and Ming in our own lives, marveling at fantasy is not altogether unpleasant. It’s unfortunate though that we can only use our eyes and not our brains when watching though.

Saving a seat for you,

Christine

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One Response to “Movie Real Estate: House & Garden, The Movie”

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