I love movies about writers. There’s something about seeing her words on the screen, hearing her clicking keyboard, watching her work – it’s a recipe that makes me feel like I could write the next great American novel. Or at least a really powerful essay.
I just finished watching Something’s Gotta Give. And now I want to be Diane Keaton.
I watched it for the first time last week when I disappeared for those few days by myself. I wrote about the delicious irony of it all.
I am a writer away on a writing weekend – although it wasn’t a weekend at all, but a Tuesday to a Thursday, which just goes to show that ‘weekend’ isn’t a calendar term for me but rather a state of mind – and I choose to watch a movie about a successful writer who had gone away to write for the weekend.
She only needed four hours of sleep a night, and I was so enchanted by the idea of staying up through the night to write, write, write. And now the movie is over, and I could go to bed, and if I were at home I would most assuredly be in bed. But no. I choose to be the enchanting late night writer.
The ‘Something’s Gotta Give’ house is amazing. Like, you guys, amazing. It’s decorated in colors I would never have chosen but seriously fell in love with over the course of two hours, all these hues of white, cream, grey, and slate blue – and then I later learned that the entire world fell in love with this house in the Hamptons when they saw the movie. In fact, it became this sociological study of perfection, because a whole demographic of people sought after this home and how they might acquire it. And the designers revealed that it really wasn’t a house at all, but genuinely a movie set in the true sense of the word. It was created for the movie and only for the movie, and such careful precision went into every detail that – get this! – artists chose a selection of books to accent the color of Jack Nicholson’s shirt. The books were flown in over the course of several days and crazy amounts of money, and that’s just for a few scenes in the living room.
Which just goes to show you have to be careful how you define perfection, because what you see may be so many levels of impossible that you can’t wrap your mind around what you really want in your life.
Anyway, there’s this scene with Harry and Erica – or Jack and Diane – where they are making pancakes in the middle of the night in this glorious kitchen.
And he says (and I paraphrase), “Tell me. Do you miss being married? I bet you were great at it.”
And she says, “Yeah, sometimes. At night. But not as much anymore.”
She busies herself getting ingredients from the fridge and pouring milk into the bowl, and I realize then that she’s making ‘real deal’ pancakes, not the ‘just add water’ mix like I make at home. (The boys rave about it, by the way. And I have this silent fear that someday someone will give them real buttermilk pancakes and I will be exposed as a fraudulent Mrs. Butterworth.) She wants to move on and talk about other things, but he brings her right back to that topic, which is one of my favorite things for a man to do: to be listening so closely that he brings me back when I change the subject.
He asks her why she said she misses being married at night, and I know what she’s going to say even before she says it. Nights are quiet and alone. It’s when a girl misses being with a boy. It’s when there’s a giant void in my life and on my couch, and it’s wearing a name tag called Companionship.
She tells him, “Well, the phone doesn’t ring that much at night and the whole alone thing happens at night, and sleeping by myself took some getting used to, but I got the hang of it. You’ve got to sleep in the middle of the bed. It’s absolutely unhealthy to have one side of the bed when nobody else is on the other side.”
She continues making the real-deal pancakes, and she casually says, “I can’t imagine what you must think of me.” And then he begins to tell her what he thinks of her, to describe her, to explain her to herself.
“You are a tower of strength. I think you use your strength to separate yourself from everyone. But it’s thrilling when your defenses are down and you’re not isolated. That, I believe, is your winning combo. Killer combo.”
Let me ask you. Does it ever happen to you that you’re listening to something entirely fictional and you realize it could be precisely in regard, about, directed to, and pointed at you?
I’ll tell you what, I was riveted. Because all of a sudden, he was describing me. Oh my goodness. This is me.
I am the strong girl who braces herself against getting hurt again. I’ve been told that my greatest moments are when my defenses are down, when I stop being the author and start being the girl. I’ve been told that it’s thrilling, even, when the strong girl lets somebody help her.
I’m pretty sure I smiled through the entire movie. I’m not sure what it says about me that I found Jack Nicholson to be so devastatingly charming, or that I identify quite so completely with a character in her sixties. But suddenly I just wanted to live in that house and fall in love with an older man just for the sheer experience of loving and being loved like that.
And so now, here I am, in the wee small hours of the morning, writing like Erica Berry in the middle of the night, because I’m just like Erica Berry.
And just like Erica Berry, I miss being married.
I was pretty great at it.