Driver's EDitorial #17: The Battle for Directing Queen-Nancy Meyers vs. Nora Ephron
by: Jeremey Gingrich
This year saw the release of two films by two of the consummate chick flick directors: JULIE & JULIA by Nora Ephron and IT’S COMPLICATED by Nancy Meyers. And while I’m sure the sisterhood supports solidarity, especially in a field dominated by men, I imagine there’s also that inherent competition between the two of them to be crowned Queen of the Chick Flicks. And upon review of their stats, it’s quite a horse race.
Starting with their writing credits, Nancy Meyers was the first out of the gate. She received an Academy Award nomination for her original screenplay for PRIVATE BENJAMIN in 1980 and actually won the Writer’s Guild Award that year. However, Nora Ephron is a three-time Oscar nominee for Original Screenplay, first for SILKWOOD in 1983, then WHEN HARRY MET SALLY… in ’89, and SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE in ’93. Furthermore, it is likely she’ll get an adapted screenplay nomination this year for her combination of Julie Powell’s book Julie & Julia and Meryl Streep’s My Life in France. But that covers the writing, let’s get down to the director’s chair.
When it came to directing, Nancy Meyers started off with a family pic which remade the old Haley Mills’ Disney film THE PARENT TRAP, with a bright, young star in a Lindsey Lohan…prior to her coke-induced breakdown. Ephron, on the other hand, started with a passion project she liked about a woman trying out and succeeding in stand up comedy in THIS IS MY LIFE, starring Julie Kavner (voice of Marge Simpson). Dan Akroyd puts in a great comedic performance as her agent with Carrie Fisher appearing as his agent. Kavner cannot help but be funny, but there is also an emotional aspect that Ephron puts in all her films to give it that extra appeal to female viewers.
Nancy Meyers is no slouch, though. Before Catherine Hardwicke released TWILIGHT and capitalized on teenage girls with money to burn, Myers’ film WHAT WOMEN WANT was the most successful film ever directed by a woman. It rode the wave of Mel Gibson’s winsome smile (pre-Anti-Semitic rant) to a gross of $183 million domestic and $374 million worldwide. Even Ephron’s magnum opus in SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE only managed $228 million worldwide.
The follow up works were mediocre entertainments: Myers doing THE HOLIDAY and SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE, although the latter did well to introduce more mature actors to the romantic comedy arena; while Ephron rehashed SLEEPLESS with YOU’VE GOT MAIL and then did horribly in LUCKY NUMBERS and BEWITCHED. However, both seemed to have rebounded well this year, with Meryl Streep turning in a great performance in J&J, and Myers capitalizing on the comic talents of Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin to again tackle more mature characters in complex relationships in IT’S COMPLICATED.
But if it’s me (and it is), if I were crowning one of these directors as the Queen of Feminine Cinema, I would go with the one who, upon even the mere mention of their film’s title, inspired deep emotion and fond nostalgia…and between these two, that’s Nora Ephron’s SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE. The perfect combination of acting and plot to come together to form the perfect chick flick…and even in a movie with a dialogue that makes fun of chick flick’s. Congrats, Ms. Ephron, and yes, I cried too at THE DIRTY DOZEN.