I’m middle-aged. I freely admit it. *ducks sheepishly behind laptop monitor*
Seriously, though, the forties don’t seem to be very different from the thirties, other than the looming spectre of menopause for women, and the decade can even have some perks. A lot of us forty-somethings feel more comfortable in our own skin and care less about what others think, not to mention operate in a predictable rhythm of job, home, and grown or almost-grown children. For the most part, anyway, because life can and will be tough sometimes. Some of us are also caught in what author Lisa Sampson called “Club Sandwich,” meaning we care for aging parents while raising children.
And for those of you who think any age over forty sounds old, and we’ve all been there, just wait. God willing, you’ll get there. God willing, you’ll have a healthy sense of humor when you do, because some iteration of “OK, boomer,” will likely be sent your way at one time or another.
Everyone handles middle age differently, and riding things out is ideal, but obviously not everyone does that. The 2004 TV movie, Revenge Of the Middle-Aged Woman is about one woman’s response to life handing her the proverbial lemons.
Rose Lloyd (Christine Lahti) met her husband, Nathan (Brian Kerwin) on the plane home from Brazil, where she left her former love, Hal, after they broke up. Now she’s the book editor and Nathan is features editor of the Los Angeles Chronicle. Rose seems to have everything going for her. She’s got a perfect Kraftsman house, two grown kids, and Hal is writing books on the other side of the world, so Rose only sees him on book jackets. Things are good. Rose has no problem joking about the governor having an affair with a younger woman because that’s not her life.
Then Nathan announces he’s dumping Rose for her younger and perkier assistant, Mindy (Abby Brammell). It’s the usual thing. He’s been with her for about a year and she makes him feel alive. Rose dumps out the contents of her purse, collapses face down on her bed, and then calls her friend, Madeline (Caroline Aaron) who comes over with a bottle of Grey Goose.
Rose and Madeline get falling-over drunk before Rose collapses facedown on her bed again and wakes up with a mondo hangover. Madeline pops up feeling equally regretful just as Rose’s kids, Rachel (Maggie Lawson), Sam (Reid Scott) and Rachel’s boyfriend, Richard (Julian Bailey) show up. Sam is sympathetic; Rachel is sympathetic but also wants Rice Krispies treats.
The hits just keep on coming, though, and after getting all kinds of sympathy from her co-workers Rose hides in her office until Mindy comes in with lame excuses about her affair with Nathan. Worse, Rose’s boss, Simon (Anthony Heald), a guy with clowns on his sideboard and a fridge full of diet Coke, tells Rose she’s being let go because he wants a fresh approach to the Chronicle‘s book section. Mindy is going to take over her job. Ouch. Rose packs up her office and does the walk of shame out to her car amid sympathetic looks from her former coworkers.
Rose downs about five cups of coffee before racing into Mindy’s gym as if she’s going to give her a left hook, but loses her nerve when she sees Mindy in her underwear slathering lotion all over herself. However, she does relieve her feelings later by pouring water into Nathan’s good leather shoes.
Things get even more complicated when Rose’s old boyfriend, Hal (Bryan Brown) shows up and wants to have dinner. He also invites Rose to his book signing. Where do we go from here, folks?
Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman is a TV movie, so don’t expect much. It reads like Lifetime made it but was originally broadcast on CBS, presumably only once. While its basic plot sort of works, the overall package is pretty weak, though it’s not completely terrible. Its brevity is a good thing.
Also good is the movie’s honesty, although it takes almost the whole running time to really show up. Rose starts out as hurt and confused and ends up giving no fish about Nathan’s dishonesty and artifice. She even tells him in front of an entire crowd of people that he’s full of crap, but she plays it off like a joke and allows him to keep a little dignity. Nathan’s made his bed, and now he’s got to lie in it, along with Mindy and the consequences of his actions.
Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman was based on a best-selling novel of the same title by Elizabeth Buchan. I’m currently reading it and I have to say the novel kicks this movie’s tail. To be fair, there’s no way to feisibly cram a three-hundred forty-one page book into a ninety-odd minute movie, but they could have done a better job than they did.
In the book, the twenty-five year old Mindy is “Minty,” and she’s like a daughter to Rose, whereas the film’s Mindy is thirty-five if she’s a day and kind of mean. Rose and Nathan don’t work together, and they generally seem to have fun as a couple and with their kids, so when Rose finds out about the affair it’s much more of a blindside. It’s hard to feel sorry or cheer for anyone in the movie because none of the characters are really likeable. Again, revenge doesn’t come until the end, but it doesn’t earn it. The movie felt like it was trying really hard to rip off 9 to 5 and The Women with little of their wit or sass.
Oh yeah, and the novel is set in England, not California, which completely changes the atmosphere of the story. Why do American filmmakers do this with British novels? It didn’t work for Confessions of A Shopaholic or I Don’t Know How She Does It, and it certainly doesn’t work for Revenge. At least those movies had space to build their plots without being hamstrung by time constraints.
All in all, Revenge‘s revenge story is like eating carob instead of chocolate: Very lightweight on flavor and not too satisfying. I’m sticking with the novel.
Another post is coming up tomorrow. Thanks for reading, all, and hope to see you then…
Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman is free to stream for Prime customers. The novel is available here.
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