nancy meyers week

A Chaotic Taxonomy of the Nancy Meyers Cinematic Universe

Over four decades, she has created a very specific filmmaking language. Here is the key.

It’s Nancy Meyers Week. Why? Because it’s The Holiday season, and It’s Complicated. Something’s Gotta Give. Photo: Vulture and Photos Courtesy of Studios
It’s Nancy Meyers Week. Why? Because it’s The Holiday season, and It’s Complicated. Something’s Gotta Give. Photo: Vulture and Photos Courtesy of Studios
It’s Nancy Meyers Week. Why? Because it’s The Holiday season, and It’s Complicated. Something’s Gotta Give. Photo: Vulture and Photos Courtesy of Studios

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A Nancy Meyers movie is comfort incarnate. In Meyers’s films, there is an overwhelming sense of coziness and fairness and an understanding that nothing will go wrong that cannot be corrected. Nobody looks for love, but everyone stumbles upon it. The protagonist appears at least once in a pale, monochromatic outfit (often all white), a sly indicator of feminine strength. There is at least one hospital visit — often as a by-product of sex — and at least one hot doctor. The protagonist gets a little too drunk or stoned for the first time in years, and while everyone is surprised, they agree this is good for her. Children, when they appear, are precocious and wry. There is at least one beautifully roasted chicken and a lot of white wine.

Over four-plus decades of filmmaking, Meyers has created her own, very specific cinematic world and language. Every one of her gently screwball, fantastically aspirational comedies is a confluence of elements that are not exclusive to her oeuvre — women sobbing in front of mirrors, creative neurotics in turtlenecks, plentiful references to “my shrink” — but there’s something about the way that she combines them that renders her work uniquely Nancy Meyers–esque. In our particularly heavy times, when we all find ourselves weeping loudly in front of our laptops, Meyers’s films are a much-needed dose of lightness and catharsis. That’s why we’ve decided it’s time to assess her canon in full — and create a taxonomy of the Nancy Meyers Cinematic Universe.

In the Platonically ideal Nancy Meyers film, the protagonist is a woman either approaching 40 or significantly over, played by one of the most famous people in the universe: a Meryl, a Diane, a Goldie. She lives in or around New York City, California, or possibly in the U.K. She is well-off, white, and struggles with control issues. She is career focused, independent, and a little bit lonely. She loves to cook, but nobody is making her cook, and she’s grappling with some stage of divorce from a man who is a cad, but not irrevocably so. She lives in a house that is impossibly clean and well landscaped, wherein 70 percent of the film will take place. Mid-movie, she shops for gourmet groceries. An older man who has not been cast as a straight-up love interest in years is transformed into an unlikely sex object for our protagonist. Sex itself is rendered comic.

This is not meant to reduce Meyers’s filmography to a series of qualifiers but rather to argue that she should be discussed, much like the Werner Herzogs and the Terrence Malicks of fimmaking, as an auteur in her own right. In hopes of working toward a grand theory of Nancy Meyers, I’ve broken down Meyers’s movies into their component parts — repeated themes, outfits, and protagonists’ afflictions — to figure out which are the least and most Nancy Meyers–esque. The movies I’ll be studying include Meyers’s work as both a director and a writer, counting early films she co-wrote with her now-ex-husband, Charles Shyer. I won’t be analyzing the whodunit Once Upon a Crime (of which Meyers co-wrote one version), the Whoopi Goldberg psyop comedy Jumpin’ Jack Flash (which Meyers wrote under a pseudonym), or this year’s Father of the Bride Part 3 (ish) (which, at 25 minutes long, is too short to really grapple with). I will be breaking down Home Again — a movie technically directed by Meyers’s daughter Hallie Meyers-Shyer but which Meyers produced and feels like an uncanny simulacrum of her work.

Please grab your own towering glass of Chardonnay and join me.

14. Protocol (1984)

(co-writer with Charles Shyer and others)

Meyers’s generally impeccable fingerprints are barely visible in Protocol, a 1984 Goldie Hawn vehicle that has four separate writing credits (including Meyers and Shyer) and the sort of casual, albeit shocking, racism that pervaded the ’80s. The movie follows Hawn as a cocktail waitress who incidentally stops a terrorist attack. She is then looped into a confusing government plot that involves her becoming one of the many wives of a dignitary so the U.S. can build a military base in his “small but strategic Middle Eastern country.” Not only is the film the least cozy of Meyers’s work (too much desert), its central point — that we should all be watchdogs of our own political process — feels very divorced from Meyers’s ethos, which is mostly apolitical. Her movies typically exist in a serene limbo in which nobody ever talks about the president, but we can safely assume that the president is Barack Obama. (Available to rent on Amazon and iTunes.)

The Essential Elements

➽ Goldie Hawn (+1 white wine glass)
Goldie Hawn in a massive white sweater (+1 white wine glass)
Goldie Hawn as a broke and unfocused protagonist (-1 white wine glass)
… who works at a bar (-1 white wine glass)
Action takes place largely in DC (-1 white wine glass)
➽ … but decamps for a brief escape to a cute house in the country (+1 white wine glass)
➽ There are several scenes where people wear flannel (+1 white wine glass)
But they happen within the confines of a complex plot that involves international political implications (-1 white wine glass)
Someone gets shot in the butt (-1 white wine glass)
… and our protagonist becomes a pawn in a sick sociopolitical game (-1 white wine glass)
➽ Protagonist does appear in a bathtub, though (+2 white wine glasses)

The Score

Zero glasses of white wine

13. I Love Trouble (1994)

(co-writer with Shyer)

I Love Trouble is, appropriately, a troubling entry in the Meyers Cinematic Universe. Directed by Shyer and written by Meyers and Shyer, the film follows Julia Roberts and Nick Nolte — who clearly, and later admittedly, cannot stand each other — as a pair of Chicago reporters trying to solve an industrial cover-up involving milk and train crashes. I honestly can’t tell you what happens in this movie. What I can tell you is that, from top to bottom, it flies in the face of everything Nancy Meyers seems to believe in, most obviously her insistence that movies should offer a comfortable and fantastical escape from our own harrowing realities. This movie, shot almost entirely at night and often within the gray confines of a gigantic corporation, offers no joy or solace but instead dwells on a fatal public-transportation accident and features Roberts nearly falling to her death onto a pile of broken glass. However, there are seeds of Meyers-esque things to come: a goofy and impromptu Vegas wedding; an attempt at His Girl Friday–ish will-they, won’t-they banter; and several scenes wherein the protagonists swan about a hotel room in fluffy robes. (Available to rent on Amazon and iTunes.)

The Essential Elements

An attempt, but ultimately a failure, to make a sleazy, rakish, aging man sexy (-1 white wine glass)
➽ Protagonist is a neurotic, well-off career woman (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … who is also an effortlessly talented writer (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … and divorced (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Said protagonist is not looking for love, but it finds her (+1 white wine glass)
Action takes place largely in Wisconsin (-1 white wine glass)
➽ Julia Roberts wears several smart suits and, at one point, a big cozy sweater (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Protagonists spy on each other through a hotel door hole (+1 white wine glass)
Meanwhile, people are actively trying to kill them (-1 white wine glass)
Dialogue involves lines like, “Where’d you say you’re from? Bitchville?” (-1 white wine glass); there are monologues about cow hormones (-1 white wine glass)
➽ But there is an impromptu Vegas wedding (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Jane Adams appears on screen (+1 white wine glass) and Eugene Levy (+1 white wine glass)
But also, rats (-1 white wine glass)
➽ A dog is an important side character (+1 white wine glass)
But a dead body falls out of a closet (-1 white wine glass)
Julia Roberts eats steamed vegetables — no salt no butter — and removes bacon from BLT (-1 white wine glass)
Then consumes a turkey burger (-1 white wine glass)
➽ … that is shaped like a heart (+1 white wine glass)
➽ A competitive interpersonal dynamic turns romantic (+1 white wine glass)
Someone actually does fall to death on pile of broken glass (-2 white wine glasses)

The Score

One glass of white wine

12. What Women Want (2000)

(director, uncredited writer)

Meyers doesn’t have a writing credit for What Women Want, but, as she told Vulture, she rewrote the whole script and then directed it, ultimately making the story feel more like her sensibility than anyone else’s. It’s one of her only films to focus on a man instead of a woman, but it still manages to include a more typical Nancy Meyers protagonist in the form of Helen Hunt, a brilliant ad exec who’s the unwitting pawn in Mel Gibson’s metaphysical psychological game. There’s a lot in What Women Want that doesn’t feel like Nancy Meyers — namely, a lot of black leather furniture and suicidal ideation — but her DNA is still visible. Viewed years later, it also feels like a meta commentary on Meyers’s own career and how she was and remains one of the only directors capable of “getting into women’s brains” before it was trendy to “go after women as an audience.” (Available to rent on Amazon and iTunes.)

The Essential Elements

➽ Neurotic, successful, well-off career woman (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … who is divorced and not looking for love, but it finds her (+2 white wine glasses)
➽ She even has highly specific home-ownership dreams (+1 white wine glass)
But she is not the official protagonist (-2 white wine glasses)
An attempt, but ultimately (upon rewatch in 2020) a failure, to make a sleazy, rakish, aging man sexy (-1 white wine glass)
Said man owns a leather headboard and dark navy sheets (-1 white wine glass)
… and is an absentee father (-1 white wine glass)
➽ There is a wedding (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … and a prom (+1 white wine glass)
… that goes horribly awry (-1 white wine glass)
➽ … but leads to some Grade-A parent/child bonding (+1 white wine glass)
Action takes place in Chicago (-1 white wine glass)
➽ … at a fancy office named “Sloane Curtis” (+1 white wine class)
➽ Mel Gibson dances to Frank Sinatra alone (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Protagonist appears in a bathtub (+2 white wine glasses)
… but gets electrocuted there (-3 white wine glasses)
➽ Bette Midler cameos as a shrink (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Helen Hunt wears all beige and all white outfits (+1 white wine glass)
➽ A competitive interpersonal dynamic turns romantic (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Someone eats a large bowl of pasta (+1 white wine glass)
➽ There are several champagne toasts (+1 white wine glass)
…. and one waterbed (-1 white wine glass)

The Score

Five glasses of white wine

11. Private Benjamin (1980)

(co-writer with Shyer and Harvey Miller and co-producer)

A reminder: This list is not a ranking of the quality of Nancy Meyers’s work but rather how closely each film hews to the established cinematic traditions I’ve identified throughout her career. In that vein, I’d argue that Private Benjamin, while being a great movie that I personally adore, does not necessarily feel Nancy Meyers–esque. This is in part, of course, because she wrote it early on, at age 30. There are certainly recognizable threads throughout, but it lacks the warmth and snuggliness (both literally and figuratively) and depth that pervades much of the rest of her work. However, the film — in which Hawn goes to the army, the least cozy place on earth — begins with the following line: “When Judy Benjamin was 8 years old, she confessed her life’s desire to her best friend: ‘All I want is a big house, nice clothes, two closets, a live-in maid, and a professional man for a husband.’” What is this list if not a subtle summary of the naked desires of many of Meyers’s subsequent protagonists? (Available to rent on Amazon and iTunes.)

The Essential Elements

➽ Goldie Hawn (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … who is divorced (+1 white wine glass)
➽ There is a boisterous wedding (+1 white wine glass) wherein a blender as a gift makes someone cry (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … and a prevailing sense of hopefulness thanks to a protagonist overflowing with moxie (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Reference to “decorating the study in mushroom” (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Woman weeps loudly to comic effect (+1 white wine glass)
Protagonist experiences extreme physical discomfort while walking around soaking wet and sleep deprived (-1 white wine glass)
➽ Person devotedly cleans a bathroom floor (+1 white wine glass)
… with a toothbrush, as punishment (-1 white wine glass)
Blatant army propaganda (-1 white wine glass)
➽ Female bonding takes place in a circle, while details of sex lives are shared (+1 white wine glass)
Someone gets lost in the wilderness (-1 white wine glass)
➽ … followed by an exuberant group dance scene (+1 white wine glass)
➽ There is a joke about having faked orgasms for entire life (+1 white wine glass)
But there is also a near-rape scene (-1 white wine glass)
➽ … wherein Goldie Hawn says “oy vey” (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Luxe Parisian estate with neutral linens (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Dog as important side character (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Reference to “my shrink” (+1 white wine glass)

The Score

Ten glasses of white wine

10. Irreconcilable Differences (1984)

(co-writer with Shyer and William A. Fraker)

Meyers and Shyer’s second film, Irreconcilable Differences, is about how Drew Barrymore wants to divorce her parents, Shelley Long and Ryan O’Neal, who have themselves divorced due to extreme self-absorption and narcissism brought on by screenwriting and directing fame. That plot makes it sound like it might devolve into a series of gags and reductive comedy, but it never really does. Irreconcilable Differences is original and weird and, well, uncomfortable, a rare quality for a Nancy Meyers film, which is why this isn’t higher on the list. There’s relatively little homestyle warmth in this film; it’s about the way in which material success can destroy you. It’s also got a lot of scenes that take place in a courtroom, a place that feels very detached from Meyers’s oeuvre at large. But it does tackle a lot of the big Nancy Meyers themes: unexpected romance, divorce, familial conflict (albeit with higher stakes), staggeringly precocious kids, and whirlwind writing success. (Available to purchase on Amazon.)

The Essential Elements

➽ Neurotic, successful, well-off career woman (+1 white wine glass)
… who is embroiled in a courtroom drama (-1 white wine glass)
➽ … and fixated on a contentious divorce (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Young Drew Barrymore carrying a purse (+1 white wine glass)
Hitchhiking (-1 white wine glass)
➽ … as a romantic method of meeting one’s future spouse (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Main character is a writer (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Action takes place in the greater Los Angeles area (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Woman weeps loudly to comic effect (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Poolside business brunch (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Ryan O’Neal in an all-white suit (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Sharon Stone playing tennis in a cozy white sweater and white skirt (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Room full of white couches (+1 white wine glass)
➽ A rude stepmom (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Furious typewriting as romantic revenge (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Several mentions of “my shrink” (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Anxiety attack landing man in hospital (+1 white wine glass)
➽ ”Just one drink” between exes (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … that turns into raucous sex (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Someone falls into a pool (+1 white wine glass)
Someone smokes at the dinner table (-1 white wine glass)

The Score

15 glasses of white wine

9. Home Again (2017)

(co-producer, mother of director)

Home Again is a strange bird in the Nancy Meyers aviary. It is not technically a Nancy Meyers movie — it’s written and directed by her daughter Hallie Meyers-Shyer and produced by Meyers — but it feels and unfolds like an uncanny-valley version of one. (There are hints that Meyers-Shyer knew this would be the case — namely, the fact that her protagonist’s father is a famous filmmaker whose legacy as someone able to “capture the spirit of his generation, find the truth in the bedroom, the agony in love, and the humor in it all” is overpowering and impossible to avoid.) All of the Nancy Meyers elements are there, but it does not evoke the same feelings. The film is a Westworld robot version of a Nancy Meyers movie. And it’s a fascinating cultural object because of this, further proving the notion that you can do everything exactly like Nancy Meyers, but you cannot ultimately re-create Nancy Meyers. Home Again is in this position on this list because while it is Nancy Meyers–ish, it is not Nancy Meyers–esque. An important distinction! (Available to rent on Amazon and iTunes.)

The Essential Elements

➽ Protagonist is a neurotic, successful, well-off career woman (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … with highly specific home-ownership dreams (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … who is part of a couple that’s mid-divorce (+1 white wine glass)
➽ She is not looking for love, but it finds her (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Prevailing sense of hopefulness thanks to a protagonist overflowing with moxie (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Two precocious children (+2 white wine glasses)
➽ Woman weeps loudly, to comic effect (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Action takes place in greater Los Angeles area (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Female bonding takes place in a circle, while details of sex lives are shared (+1 white wine)
➽ There are several scenes wherein people drink white wine during the daytime (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Protagonist gets too drunk, to comic effect (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Appearance of several white couches (+1 white wine glasses)
➽ Someone has “creative differences” with an interior decorator (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Lake Bell plays massive bitch (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Dialogue involves lines like “Oh my god, I’m not kidding, you gotta feel these sheets” (+1 white wine glass)
➽ People walk on the beach fully clothed (+1 white wine glasses)
➽ Spouse appears out of nowhere requesting to be taken back (+1 white wine glasses)
➽ … and eat gourmet leftovers out of fridge (+1 white wine glasses)
➽ Michael Sheen in a very fuzzy sweater (+1 white wine glass)
➽ ”You guys hungry? There’s some leftover Nobu.” (+1 white wine glass)
”What’s Nobu?” (-4 white wine glasses)
➽ Outdoor fireplace (+1 white wine glass)

The Score

18 glasses of white wine

8. Father of the Bride Part II (1995)

(co-writer with Shyer)

Written by Meyers and Shyer and directed by Shyer, FOTB 2 is certainly Nancy Meyers–esque, albeit less so than several of her other films, most noticeably the first Father of the Bride. It’s got a lot of the flagship Meyers elements — a beautiful California home decked out in neutrals, a ridiculously functional family, precocious children, a soundtrack that brings you to freaking sobs in the middle of the grocery store — but ultimately comes across as a gentler shadow of its predecessor. The film centers on a classically farcical plot: Diane Keaton and Kimberly Williams-Paisley get knocked up around the same time and spend the film doing pregnant-gal things and wondering who will pop first. In the meantime, Steve Martin loses his mind and tries to sell his insanely gorgeous house. Meyers’s stunning attention to detail and good humor are readily apparent, but the movie doesn’t overflow with the same fresh energy that suffuses a lot of her later work. (Available to rent on Amazon and iTunes.)

The Essential Elements

➽ A home as a metaphor for life (+1 white wine glass)
… that is nearly demolished (-1 white wine glass)
➽ … but is saved in a last-minute, half-a-million-dollar real-estate deal (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Steve Martin (+2 white wine glasses)
➽ Diane Keaton (+2 white wine glasses)
➽ … who have a daughter who is a neurotic, successful, well-off career woman (+1 white wine glass)
➽ The presence of daytime chardonnay (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Hanging copper pots (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Wholesome parent-child bonding (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Protagonist takes too many drugs to comedic effect (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Dog(s) as important side character (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Humor around concept of menopause (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Massive wedding-adjacent event, specifically a baby shower (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Action takes place in greater Los Angeles area (+1 white wine glass)
Main character is moving to Boston (-1 white wine glass)
➽ … because she got her dream job (+1 white wine glass)
➽ There is an entire wing of a house built for a child who is not yet born (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Hijinks takes place in hospital as direct effect of sex (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Hot doctor (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … played by Jane Adams (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Eugene Levy appears! (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Diane Keaton tells a romantic story whose point hinges on a turtleneck (+1 white wine glass)

The Score

20 glasses of white wine

7. The Intern (2015)

(director, writer, co-producer)

We have now reached the point in the list where everything henceforth will be extremely Nancy Meyers–esque. Let’s have fun! The Intern is the least Nancy Meyers–esque of the most Nancy Meyers–esque movies because while it grapples with many Nancy Meyers themes — the possibility of divorce, the travails of careerism, an insanely great house, a lovely friendship that defies age stereotypes — it notably grapples with them in an entirely fresh way. This is the only movie Nancy Meyers — or anyone else — has ever made about Robert De Niro becoming an intern at an e-commerce start-up and becoming best friends with its founder, played by Anne Hathaway. It is also the only Nancy Meyers movie to star two people from Workaholics and to explicitly feature an erection. (Available to rent on Amazon and iTunes.)

The Essential Elements

➽ Prevailing sense of hopefulness thanks to a protagonist overflowing with moxie (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … who is a neurotic, successful, well-off career woman (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … and an incredibly precocious child (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Action takes place in NYC (+1 white wine glass)
➽ A friendship develops between a much older man and a younger woman wherein he teaches her things about life (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Robert De Niro in a lei (+2 white wine glasses)
➽ Robert De Niro doing tai chi in Central Park (+2 white wine glasses)
➽ Anne Hathaway in a big white sweater (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Divorce looms over the central characters (+1 white wine glass)
… but nobody actually gets divorced (-1 white wine glass)
➽ An in-office masseuse who wears all white (+1 white wine glass)
We briefly see an erection through khakis (-1 white wine glass)
➽ Child with a bespoke in-home tent (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Roast chicken as leftovers (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Woman randomly references Freud (+1 white wine glass)
Protagonist rarely eats and when she does, it is cold pizza at her desk (-1 white wine glass)
➽ ”I love this house. Like if it were in a kids’ book, it would make you feel good when you turned the page and saw it inside.” (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Walk-in closet with rotating tie rack (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Woman with insomnia (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Protagonist gets too drunk, to comic effect (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Wedding-adjacent event, specifically a funeral (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Protagonists swan about in white robes at a hotel (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Two characters quietly watch an old movie together (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Matching pajama sets (+1 white wine glass)
➽ A key plot point revolves around cleaning a messy desk (+1 white wine glass)

The Score

21 glasses of white wine

6. Baby Boom (1987)

(co-writer with Shyer)

In my humble opinion, Baby Boom, directed by Shyer and written by the pair, marks the beginning of Nancy Meyers’s most Nancy Meyers–ish career phase, one wherein she focuses almost exclusively on the trials and tribulations of outwardly Zen but inwardly flustered women trying to navigate their careers and relationships. It’s full of incipient Meyers themes and characters: Diane Keaton, in her first role as Meyers’s cinematic avatar, plays a ramrod careerist who finds herself the spontaneous recipient of a dead cousin’s perfect baby. We watch as Keaton is, in essence, seduced by the perfect baby into making gourmet baby food, sleeping with Sam Shepard, telling off a roomful of corporate chauvinists, and, ultimately, finding that she can have it all (the gourmet-baby-food business, the baby, the Sam Shepard). It’s also one of Meyers’s first films that uses a house as … a metaphor for life! This time, the house is in Vermont, and it is gorgeous but falling apart at the seams. You know the rest! (Streaming on Amazon Prime Video.)

The Essential Elements

➽ Diane Keaton (+ 2 white wine glasses)
➽ Prevailing sense of hopefulness thanks to a protagonist overflowing with moxie (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … who is a neurotic, successful, well-off career woman (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … with highly specific home-ownership dreams (+1 white wine glass)
… and a black leather couch (-1 white wine glass)
➽ … who realizes her current partner is all wrong for her (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … and is still not looking for love, but it finds her (+1 white wine glass)
➽ A hot doctor (+1 wine glass)
➽ … who seduces Diane Keaton (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … who wears a white cashmere trench coat and, later, an all-white suit dress, and later, a big white turtleneck sweater (+3 white wine glasses)
➽ … and has a spontaneous outburst related to sex (+1 white wine glass)
James Spader appears (-1 white wine glass)
➽ A farmhouse crumbles as a metaphor for life (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Woman with insomnia (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Action takes place largely in NYC (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Someone mentions “my shrink” (+1 white wine glass)
➽ A baby appears in a turtleneck (+2 white wine glasses)
➽ … and eats spaghetti (+2 white wine glasses)
➽ There is a fancy company named “Sloane Curtis” (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Dialogue includes lines like ”I don’t know how to relax. It’s not in my nature.” (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Several gourmet grocery stores feature (+1 white wine glasses)
➽ Film ends with camera trained on very floral living room (+1 white wine glass)

The Score

23 glasses of white wine

5. Father of the Bride (1991)

(co-writer with Shyer and others, co-producer)

Father of the Bride is so cozy and lovely that just thinking about it brings me to tears. While there are certainly some regressive, paternalistic ideas therein, it is primarily a story about growing up; about learning to let go of your childhood and reimagining your relationship with your parents; about playing basketball with your dad; about first love; and about the trappings of upper-middle-class event expectations. It’s a sweet, heartwarming movie absolutely brimming with Nancy Meyers vibes. The only thing it does not have is divorce, and it would be weird if it did, considering its primary function as a movie about a really high-key wedding. (Available to rent on Amazon and iTunes.)

Essential Elements

➽ Prevailing sense of hopefulness thanks to protagonist overflowing with moxie (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … who is also neurotic, well-off, and successful (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Steve Martin (+2 white wine glass)
➽ Diane Keaton (+2 white wine glass)
➽ An incredibly precocious child (+1 white wine glass), plus the presence of children who can drive cars (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Action takes place in greater Los Angeles area (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Extreme wedding (+2 white wine glasses)
➽ Roast chicken served for dinner (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Matching pajama sets (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Entire monologue about how much someone loves their house (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Someone wears pearls and heels and a little black dress on an international flight (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Someone wears a pink belted suit dress and heels to brunch at a mansion (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Dog as important side character (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Woman weeps loudly, to comic effect (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Protagonist talks to self in mirror (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Blender as a wedding gift that makes someone cry (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Meaningful interpersonal interaction takes place in middle of the night (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Dialogue includes lines like “Thank god snow is white, it works” (+3 white wine glasses)

The Score

24 glasses of white wine

4. The Parent Trap (1998)

(director, co-writer)

The Parent Trap is the first film Meyers directed by herself, and it’s an embarrassment of Nancy Meyers riches. Divorce! Love when you aren’t looking! Precocious kids! Lavish homes! Fantastical circumstances leading to cross-continental twins discovering each other’s identities! I am running out of new ways to say these things! I’m also running out of words for cozy and warm. This movie is a peanut-butter Oreo eaten while snuggled next to your illegitimate twin inside your cabin on a rainy day. It is diving into a staggeringly blue private pool at your dad’s wine mansion and getting his new girlfriend all wet. It is waking up and somebody saying to you “I made every single thing we have in the house for breakfast.” (Streaming on Disney+.)

The Essential Elements

➽ Prevailing sense of hopefulness thanks to protagonist(s) overflowing with moxie (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … one of whom is a woman who is neurotic, well-off, and successful career woman (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Two incredibly precocious children (+2 white wine glass)
➽ Action takes place in California (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … and in the U.K. (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Two weddings and one foiled wedding (+3 white wine glasses)
➽ French toast, bacon, pancakes, vichyssoise, sushi, Oreos and peanut butter, cornbread and chili appear (+5 white wine glasses)
➽ Divorce (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Several scenes wherein people drink white wine during the daytime (+3 white wine glasses)
➽ Matching pajama sets (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Two absurdly nice houses (+2 white wine glasses)
➽ Protagonist gets too drunk, to comic effect (+1 white wine glasses)
➽ Protagonist talks to self in mirror (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Meaningful interpersonal interaction in middle of the night (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Competitive interpersonal dynamic that turns into … being twins (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Rude would-be stepmom (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Coordinated separates on a plane (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Too many all-cream and all-white outfits to count (+2 white wine glasses)
➽ Too many all-cream and all-white outfits to count (+2 white wine glasses)
➽ Dialogue includes lines like “Let’s go out to lunch and spend the day getting lost in Harrods” (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Butler who makes fashion recommendations (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Woman hurls household object at man out of anger (a hairdryer) (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Someone takes a limo to camp (+1 white wine glass)
➽ A friendship develops between a much older man and a younger woman wherein he teaches her things about life (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Dog as important side character (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Someone falls into a pool (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Meredith Blake inventing athleisure (+1 white wine glass)

The Score

39 glasses of white wine

3. The Holiday (2006)

(director, writer)

The Holiday is the most explicit rom-com in Nancy Meyers’s oeuvre, and also the only movie that is explicitly Christmas themed, despite the fact that all of her other movies feel like they are Christmas themed. They aren’t. They just came out near Christmas and you got confused. The Holiday is really four Nancy Meyers movies in one, and, in that way, it is perfection. I literally can’t imagine this movie not being 136 minutes long. Cameron Diaz and Jude Law are in one movie about British people, death, book publishing, and esophageal spasms. Kate Winslet and Jack Black are in another movie about scoring movies, how actors are rude, unrequited lust, and suicidal ideation (maybe that actually is a Nancy Meyers–esque theme). Winslet and Eli Wallach are in another movie that is basically a fledgling The Intern with more fun gossip. And the guy who drives Diaz to Winslet’s house but won’t drop her off there, but then does pick her up there later without saying anything and then makes her run back there by herself, is in his own movie about the dangers of letting incels drive you around the British countryside. All of this is to say, The Holiday is the most soothing, aspirational, fantastical, slightly insane film ever made. (Available to rent on Amazon and iTunes.)

The Essential Elements

➽ Prevailing sense of hopefulness thanks to protagonist(s) overflowing with moxie (+2 white wine glasses)
➽ … who are both neurotic, successful, (relatively) well-off career women (+2 white wine glasses)
➽ … one of whom is also a writer (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Neither are looking for love, but it finds them (+2 white wine glasses)
➽ Both wear all-white or all-beige outfits (+2 white wine glasses)
➽ Jude Law in a turtleneck (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Divorce (of protagonist’s parents)(+1 white wine glass)
➽ Action largely takes place in greater New York, greater Los Angeles, and U.K. (+3 white wine glasses)
➽ Woman with insomnia (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Woman who says she can’t cry eventually does cry (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Woman who can cry cries to comedic effect (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Protagonist gets to drunk, to comedic effect (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Meaningful interpersonal interaction takes place in the middle of the night (+1 white wine glass)
➽Shopping interlude at gourmet grocery store (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Dialogue involves lines like “I found it buried in that little place we found in Covent Garden, that time” (+1 white wine glass)
➽ White couch, five coffee poufs and a giant coffee table (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Woman hurls household object at man out of anger (a shoe) (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Blackout shades provoke screams of joy (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Man gets punched in the face in front of the landscaper in white-linen button-down (+1 white wine glass)
Matching pajamas (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Lindsay Lohan as a woman who never met her father (+1 white wine glass)
➽ The booking of an international vacation one day before leaving, multiple times (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Woman monologuing to herself at computer (+1 white wine glass)
➽ The curative power of fettuccine alfredo (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Geriatric aquatic therapy (+1 white wine glass)
A woman who has no therapist (-1 white wine glass)
➽ A woman who “has been going to a therapist for 3 years” (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Full slate of Kiehl’s products in cottage bathroom (+1 white wine glass)
➽ A friendship develops between a much older man and a younger woman wherein he teaches her things about life (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Being very tan in wintertime England (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Two precocious children under 6 who both own cell phones (+1 white wine glasses)
➽ Protagonist in bathtub for an entire scene (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Mr. Napkin Head (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Several scenes wherein people drink white wine during the daytime (+4 white wine glass)
➽ Argument ensues over number of marshmallows in hot chocolate (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Female bonding takes place in a circle, while details of sex lives are shared (+1 white wine glass)

The Score

42 glasses of white wine

2. Something’s Gotta Give (2003)

(director, writer, co-producer)

Something HAS gotta give. And it is the word count on this article. At this point, you understand what I am getting at here. This movie is like if you turned Nancy Meyers herself into a bottle of white wine and chugged it. Diane Keaton again stars as the Nancy Meyers avatar, a playwright who is not looking for love and finds it with both Keanu Reeves and Jack Nicholson, and Paris is involved and so is divorce. Throw in a meta side plot wherein Keaton writes a play based on her own life, in this movie that Nancy Meyers wrote based on her own life, and, congrats, you are very drunk on that Nancy Meyers bottle of wine. (Available to rent on Amazon and iTunes.)

The Essential Elements

➽ Prevailing sense of hopefulness thanks to protagonist overflowing with moxie (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … who is a neurotic, successful, well-off career woman (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … and also a writer (+1 white wine glass)
➽ and also Diane Keaton (+2 white wine glasses)
➽ She has an incredibly luxe home in the Hamptons (+1 white wine glass)
➽ She’s divorced (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … and has a good relationship with her ex (+1 white wine glass)
➽ She is not looking for love, but it finds her (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … in the form of a hot doctor (+1 wine glass)
➽ The hot doctor seduces Diane Keaton (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … who wears multiple all-white outfits (+10 white wine glass)
➽ A turtleneck is part of a romantic moment (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Woman weeps loudly to comic effect (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Action takes place largely in greater New York area (+1 white wine glass)
➽ “The fabulous two-story living room” (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Female bonding takes place in a circle, while details of sex lives are shared (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Midday Champagne on ice (+1 white wine glass)
➽ French is spoken at a gourmet grocery store (+1 white wine glass)
➽ “Didn’t I read an article about you in New York Magazine?” (+1 self-serving white wine glass)
➽ Woman with insomnia (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Woman randomly references Freud (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Matching pajama sets (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Humor around concept of menopause (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Jack Nicholson saying, “We are cute!” (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Meaningful interpersonal interaction takes place in the middle of the night (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Pancakes, pasta, leftover coq a vin (+5 white wine glasses)
➽ Hijinks take place in hospital as direct effect of sex (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Man is rushed to hospital with panic attack (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Frances McDormand brings Keanu Reeves home from the farmers market (+1 white wine glasses)
➽ Paris (+1 white wine glass)

The Score

44 glasses of white wine

1. It’s Complicated (2009)

(director, writer, co-producer)

If a very intelligent bot watched every Nancy Meyers movie and then wrote its own script, it would be It’s Complicated. This movie is nearly the Platonic ideal of Nancy Meyers, demonstrating both her capability and dexterity as a director and also her evolution as an artist. If Father of the Bride and The Parent Trap are Meyers’s happy-endings versions of family life, It’s Complicated is a more, well, complicated take on the endgame of the American nuclear family. It’s Complicated is what happens when Nancy Meyers finally scales the top of the Nancy Meyers mountain. (Visualize Nancy Meyers standing on top of a mountainous rendition of her own head, sort of like Mount Rushmore, except it’s just her.) To be clear, this movie is not necessarily my tippy-top favorite of her films (that would be Something’s Gotta Give or The Holiday), but it is the most ineffably hers. Nobody else could have made it, and its reliance on an understanding of her previous work makes it even more special. To watch It’s Complicated is to watch a director who’s finally at her peak, understanding exactly what she wants to say and how to say it in a way that will make you ignore the fact that Meryl Streep already has a perfect kitchen — why is she redoing her kitchen? Don’t ask questions!! It’s … freaking … complicated!! (Available to rent on Amazon and iTunes.)

The Essential Elements

➽Prevailing sense of hopefulness thanks to protagonist overflowing with moxie (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … who is a neurotic, successful, well-off career woman (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … who owns a bakery called “The Bakery” (+1 white wine glass)
➽ She is not looking for love, but it finds her (+1 white wine glass)
➽ She is divorced (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … and has a good relationship with her ex (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Perhaps it’s too good! (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … and therein lies the complication (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Attempt to make sleazy, rakish, aging man sexy (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Meryl Streep tending to her garden in a straw hat (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Meryl Streep making chocolate croissants (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Meaningful interpersonal interaction takes place in middle of the night (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Steve Martin (+2 white wine glasses)
➽ Action takes place largely in New York and Santa Barbara (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Woman with insomnia (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Protagonist gets too drunk, to comic effect (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Protagonist gets too high, to comic effect (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Woman stalks therapist for brief unscheduled consultation (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Protagonist in bathtub for entire scene (+1 white wine glass)
➽ ”Just one drink” between exes (+1 white wine glass) that turns into raucous sex (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Hot doctor (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Wedding adjacent-events (anniversary party, graduation party) (+2 white wine glasses)
➽ Lake Bell plays a massive bitch (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Meryl Streep in all-white outfit with turquoise jewelry (+1 white wine glass)
➽ House inexplicably under construction (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Humor around concept of menopause (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Female bonding takes place in a circle, while details of sex lives are shared (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Several scenes wherein people drink white wine during the daytime (+2 white wine glasses)
➽ Protagonists swan about in white robes at a hotel (+1 white wine glass)
➽ The way Meryl Streep says “details” like “da-tails” (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Meryl Streep wearing a silk robe dancing around with pies (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Protagonists spy on each other (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Croque monsieur, giant bowls of pasta, roast chicken as leftovers, mashed potatoes, “too much food” for dinner (+5 white wine glasses)
➽ Man has anxiety attack requiring medical attention (+1 white wine glass)
➽ … as a direct effect of sex (+1 white wine glass)
➽ Turning croissant dough into a beard (+2 white wine glass)

The Score

45 glasses of white wine

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Essentially, the audience is Diane Keaton in Father of the Bride Part II, not really drinking because she is pregnant. The audience is Hallie-as-Annie in The Parent Trap, falling out of her chair at breakfast after sipping her mother’s drink. We are Goldie Hawn at the inappropriately raucous party she throws for foreign dignitaries in Protocol. We are Meryl Streep low-key twisted at her son’s graduation party in It’s Complicated. The audience is Meredith Blake ordering a cocktail from Chessie at lunch in The Parent Trap. The audience is Diane Keaton drunk off wine at her birthday dinner in Paris, flirting with Jack Nicholson while still on a date with Keanu Reeves, in Something’s Gotta Give. We are Steve Martin passing out into a plate at dinner after drugging himself in Father of the Bride 2. We are Reese Witherspoon getting drunk at her birthday in Home Again and taking home a 20-something stranger who then vomits in our house. The audience is Mel Gibson electrocuting himself after drinking alone in What Women Want. The audience is Natasha Richardson stumbling out of her limo after drinking through the entirety of a cross-continental flight in The Parent Trap. We are Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin blacking out at a hotel bar and having sex in It’s Complicated. We are Anne Hathaway puking outside the bar after taking shots in The Intern. The audience is Jude Law getting blasted at the local pub then coming home and boning the woman living in his sister’s house who he just met in The Holiday. The audience is Diane Keaton chugging white wine while sitting on a pile of laptops in white turtlenecks, crying, talking to herself in the mirror, holding a baby like a sack of potatoes, giving birth in front of Keanu Reeves, hiring Robert De Niro to take her precocious child to Steve Martin’s wedding because she is busy writing a play about her divorce from Meryl Streep.
A Chaotic Taxonomy of the Nancy Meyers Cinematic Universe