Boycott male-fantasy movies! Women, drop the double standard! Hey, who'd choose Jack over Keanu anyway? Readers take issue -- several issues -- with Charles Taylor's review of "Something's Gotta Give."

By Salon Staff
Published December 16, 2003 9:00PM (EST)

Please give poor film critic Charles Taylor a break. Why do you keep subjecting him to celluloid dreck? Please muster up some sympathy for this man of such obvious good taste and overwhelming joie de cinema who, unfortunately, has been forced to endure in the span of one week "an irritatingly moralistic romantic comedy" ("Something's Gotta Give"), a "stultifyingly tasteful adaptation of a ludicrous book" ("Girl With a Pearl Earring") and "a stiff, limping bore" ("The Statement").

Clearly, the assignment editors have some vendetta against Mr. Taylor because it seems that week after week he is asked to review only the most horrible films. Your other reviewers, it would seem, are treated to a more evenly mixed bag of films, as evidenced by the wide range of reviews they turn in. Poor Mr. Taylor, however, only gets the baddies. My unscientific calculations of Mr. Taylor's reviews over the past year reveal that approximately 86 percent of the films you have asked him to review are abominations to the screen. Shame on you. Perhaps you should give Mr. Taylor a break from film reviewing so he can recover from his seemingly endless unsatisfying moviegoing experiences.

-- Jane McGonigal

I don't think that I have ever read a movie review that starts off with a first paragraph as angry and defensive as Mr. Taylor's. Issues, anyone? I'm so sorry that Mr. Taylor gets dirty looks from women when he goes out to dinner with his niece. Perhaps a good dose of therapy would help him get over this trauma so he can go back to writing movie reviews instead of bizarre personal diatribes disguised as movie reviews.

-- Lisa White

I'm a 25-year-old black woman who frequently dates outside her race, though not outside my age group. First of all, a heads-up to writer Charles Taylor: "Askance glances" at interracial couples is not a thing of the past. It's still in full force today. And second, the instincts and attitudes that inspire those glances are not of the same cloth that lead older women to criticize "older male/younger female relationships." I won't even begin to pretend that I understand the psyche of a man who could be attracted in any way other than sexually to someone 20 or 30 years his junior. Age is not just a number -- depending on your age, it's experience, it's a level of confidence in who you are and what's made you that way, it can be an enviable understanding of the things that boggle the mind at 22 or even 30 (for the most part).

How dare Mr. Taylor compare a relationship, based on what many would say is little more than physical attraction, to an interracial relationship? It's insulting. To my knowledge, older men who manage to snag a younger girl are usually so pleased with themselves that they are much too distracted to notice the one or two curious or amused glances they might receive. Please don't insult your readers who have had to experience the embarrassment of having insults thrown at them from strangers, angry stares, or sidewalk-preachers denouncing them simply because they are with someone of another race.

-- Inga Fairclough

Why is it, when discussing the relationships of older men and younger woman, that men bear the brunt of the criticism? Younger woman constantly seeking to date older men is just as prevalent, if not more so, and just as potentially sexist. It is not, however, nearly as socially taboo. It seems to be simply understood that younger woman want to date older men. A woman's belief that older men offer more material security, are typically more emotionally mature and are less likely to cheat, having already "sowed their wild oats," are concepts just as sexist as a man seeking a younger woman simply because her butt is tighter or her breasts are perkier.

Of course an older man will often offer more social/sexual authority, and thus be more sexually attractive to many women, but the fact that woman aren't called on that fact is very much a double standard. Men were forced, and in many ways rightly so, to redefine what they found attractive in the opposite sex. It's time women stepped up and followed through with what they largely started, and redefined what women look for in a partner. Forget looking for a glorified father figure/checkbook who will support her in her career while still allowing her to have her children in luxury -- all while being the rock that she can cling to during scary movies and life's traumas.

-- Chris W.

Hello! Are there any men out there who want to romance women 20 to 30 years older than themselves? Didn't think so. So what makes them think old men are any more appealing to younger women? Women are constantly subjected to movies that feature old and older men chasing young girls, even though we value beauty, youth and vitality as much as men obviously do. The double standard is only getting worse, as older men write, direct and produce these insulting stories and, yes, it's subliminally about their fear of aging and death. However, as aging women, we are expected to gratefully pair off with old men -- men older than our withered, aged fathers -- while at the same time men our same age or older start new families with young wives. I wish women would stop endorsing this tripe and boycott Hollywood's male-fantasy movies.

-- Name withheld

Nancy Meyers claims that "Something's Gotta Give" is an empowering fantasy for middle-aged women, but I think Charles Taylor gets it right; it's more a movie about trading sexual pleasure for a "fulfilling life." He was talking about Jack Nicholson's character and his penchant for younger women, but his observation is even truer for Diane Keaton's role.

In this so-called fantasy, the heroine has a sexy, charming man who adores her, freely tells her how beautiful and brilliant she is, and chases her around her bedroom with "casual ardor" (a nice phrase capturing Keanu Reeves' performance perfectly). But she prefers instead a fat, balding heart patient with a roving eye, an obnoxious smirk and a prescription for Viagra. The night I saw the movie, the middle-aged women in the audience audibly gasped in incomprehension at the ending, and I think I speak for all of us there that night when I ask: This is a fantasy? I'd hate to think what happens in Meyers' nightmares.

The dream this movie proffers is depressingly familiar and completely conventional: The good girl meets a dangerous man and tries to tame him. When her first attempts fail, she waits patiently for him to come to his senses and realize that all he wants is the love of a good woman. In the 21st century, she may get to dally with a younger man while she waits, but in the end, she makes exactly the choice that Taylor deplores: Domestic bliss -- complete with bouncing baby -- over the sexual kind.

I look forward to the DVD and the alternate ending it must surely contain. The one where Keaton shakes hands with Nicholson outside the restaurant, but gets in the cab and speeds to a Parisian hotel room with Reeves -- and stays there. Now that's a fantasy.

-- Anna Marshall

Charles Taylor misses the point in his review of "Something's Gotta Give." It's not that Diane Keaton's "affair with Reeves is accepted" while Nicholson is forced to "correct the error of his ways." It's that the film is almost revolutionary in depicting a younger man's attraction to an older woman. The pairing of older men with much younger woman is so commonplace in Hollywood films that it never even merits a mention. (I don't know about other women, but I'm tired of it myself.) My only beef with the film was the ending -- what woman of any age would trade Keanu Reeves for Jack Nicholson?

-- Hilary Dunst

I find it irresponsible to make unsupported claims about feminists in a national publication. What exactly does "She doesn't overtly give in to the cattiness that has of late made younger women a target for older feminists" mean? Are you seriously saying that feminists as a whole express cattiness toward younger women? It's such a ridiculous statement I can't believe your editor allowed it to be published. The idea that feminism is a bastion of older women is the same tired idea the media has been harping on for a while. I think it's time for older men in the media to educate themselves about feminism instead of repeating clichéd arguments against it. And the word "cattiness" can only be described as condescending. I'd appreciate a more balanced movie review, no matter how accurately the film touches on your personal issues.

-- Frances Santiago

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