I’d love to have a 20 year old girlfriend. I’ve never made any secret of that. It’s something I wanted when I was 20, something I want now, and something I’ll want when I’m 80 (if I’m somehow still around).
So in that sense I suppose this movie about a 40-something year old guy dating a 20 year old woman is right up my alley. On the other hand, it’s the kind of thing I’d much rather do than watch, so in that sense maybe I wasn’t particularly predisposed in favor of this movie due to the subject matter.
But on the whole I thought Guinevere was a good film, mostly well done and interesting, though here and there it rings false.
The aforementioned relationship is between a photographer (somewhat successful in the past, serious attitude about his art, ambivalent about the commercialism of it, kind of a hip guy with hip friends, mostly living on the edge financially in a “starving artist” kind of way) and a girl who’s just finished college (accepted to Harvard Law School but backs out, from a rich family of snobs and lawyers, a little goofy and giggly and lacking in confidence despite the aforementioned acceptance to Harvard and the fact that she must have skipped a couple grades along the way to be through college at 20).
The first false note comes at the very beginning. The girl says in a retrospective voiceover that this older boyfriend “was the worst thing that ever happened to me. Or maybe the best,” which struck me as the kind of eye roll inducing line I might have written as a teenager.
I also didn’t think much of the sequence near the end when he’s dying and he asks her to sketch out what the afterlife will be like, and she describes this whole elaborate scenario. If you listen to her lines and the way she delivers them, it sounds nothing at all like a person coming up with ideas on the spur of the moment in conversation. It sounds instead just like someone reading a written monologue, like in a (not very good) play.
I also wasn’t really sold on this notion that their relationship fits a pattern of his, that she is one of five or six women he’s taken on as girlfriends and protégés over the years, all starting at about her age, all lasting about a year to three years, and overlapping a great deal in the details of the relationships (e.g., his pet names for them).
I don’t find it believable he could get that many young girls, though I suppose people do it. It also implies he’s kind of a phony and just uses whatever lines enable him to collect trophies, whereas that’s really not the picture that’s painted of him—I don’t think—in the movie as a whole. Mostly he seems to treat her quite well, and to have deep and genuine feelings for her, and their relationship seems to be a pretty positive and healthy one, at least as these things go. (Which also makes that line about how he was “the worst thing that ever happened to [her]” inapplicably melodramatic. I don’t see that he did anything to her to warrant her being devastated or judging him harshly.)
It’s also odd that these women all know of each other, and end up knowing each other, and they’re not as condemnatory toward him about this pattern as I’d expect. I bought it even less when they gathered together for him when he was dying and even took a topless group photo for him. Uh, yeah, I don’t think so. Maybe I’m wrong and it could happen, but that didn’t feel real to me.
So as I say, there were some things that didn’t work for me, that I had trouble buying. But those elements are more the exception. Mostly it did feel real, and it did feel like these people had a good chemistry, and that they were interesting as individuals and as a couple. I didn’t go along with every part, but I’d say I went along with the whole.
Maybe the single most effective scene to me is when the mother confronts the boyfriend about dating her daughter who is less than half his age, because I think she very accurately represents the bitterness older women feel toward men who prefer young women (even aside from it being her daughter).
Attitudes like that, and this whole issue, have long fascinated me. She goes off on a rant, trying to find whatever convoluted psychological explanations of men’s attraction for younger women are the most insulting to such men (they’re too immature and unconfident to try for women their own age, they need easier conquests who will idol worship them, etc.), but in doing so she reveals a lot more of the rage and self-doubt and negativity inside her (and most such women) than she actually nails him with anything particularly psychologically insightful. Her mean-spirited insistence on how pathetic he is frankly makes her look pathetic.
For one thing it’s ludicrously self-flattering to pretend guys go for 20 year old women because that’s the best they can do and they’re scared to aim higher. No, believe me, 99 point something percent of men, assured they could have either you or your daughter, will take your daughter. There’s a huge difference in dating market value, and it ain’t in your favor, lady.
The obvious explanation is that 20 year old women are phenomenally attractive physically; you don’t need to search a lot deeper than that. But beyond that, while there can be a certain goofiness and immaturity to that age, as manifested by the woman in this movie, even non-physically you can make a case that most younger women are better company and better partners. To take the example of this woman and her mother, even if we make believe that physically I’m exactly equally attracted to them, I would pick the daughter ten times out of ten. I’ll take the openness, the ability to love, the zest for life of the 20 year old, over the bitterness and arrogance of her mother.
You know, people are attracted to what they’re attracted to. You can wish it were different, but I don’t go along with this judgmental crap. I don’t rail against women because virtually all of them would rather be with some muscular 25 year old surfer, or with some rich and powerful guy, than with me. It’s just a fact. If I could wave a magic wand and make them prefer me I would, but I don’t have a hatred of women over it. I don’t feel anything like the visceral loathing so many women—as represented accurately by the mother in this movie—have when they see a middle-aged man and some young hottie together.
OK, so you get passed over for younger women with firmer bodies and such. Well, join the club. I’m not exactly the first choice of most people of the opposite sex either. That’s just the way it is.
Plus, if you do want to go there, I’ve long maintained that women are actually more justifiably criticizable for their preferences in this area.
Almost all things men favor are neutral. Youth, big tits, long hair, whatever—these aren’t good or bad.
Granted there are some things that a lot of men go for that are arguably bad, or at least that encourage unhealthy things in women, like super thinness, breast implants, overly submissive or ingratiating attitudes, etc. But let’s compare that to the sorts of traits in men that women incentivize with their favors—wealth, excessive testosterone-based aggression and competitiveness, etc. (not to mention they go for youth and certain body types almost as strongly as the men they bash do).
A male actually increases the degree to which he is attractive to women, all else being equal, by being an asshole.
Think about that, and how outrageous it is. As long as that remains true, there’s a limit to how seriously I’ll take women whining about my thinking an eighteen year old has a hotter body than a fifty year old.
So if there’s a case to be made for blaming men for older women having more trouble attracting a mate, or for the detrimental health effects of anorexia, high heels, breast implants, face lifts, etc., then be prepared to blame women for wars and capitalism and such.
News flash: Guys wouldn’t do 90% of the shitty, harmful things they do if y’all didn’t reward it with pussy. So maybe get your own house in order before being so self-righteous and insulting about our being drawn to youth in a woman.
So that’s my counter-rant to her rant. And it’s not like I’m saying that out of self-interest to justify my dating women half my age. No woman half my age would ever give me the time of day.
The other point I wanted to make about this is that I think different viewers will put different interpretations on the photographer’s compliments and encouragement of the younger woman, and the way it turns out he’s had almost identical arrangements with, and made almost identical statements to, other younger women.
You can see that as being phony, as just a game of pushing the buttons you need to push to get the woman in bed or to get her to date you. But I don’t see it that way when I introspect and try to compare it to when I’ve behaved at all analogously to that.
For me at least, I think it’s more a matter of being more open to the good in a person that I’m sexually attracted to. I’m more aware, more appreciative, of their good traits that have nothing to do with their looks.
Far from ignoring everything else about attractive women because all I care about is their looks, I’m hyper-aware of the other things about them, especially things that can be perceived favorably.
So it’s not that I’m pretending to think such a woman made a particularly intelligent remark, or succeeded in saying something humorous, or is admirably kind to others, or has a lot of potential in a certain area and should be encouraged; I really do sincerely see her that way and think she’s got all these other awesome qualities to go with her looks.
Maybe it’s wishful thinking or self-deception, but that’s different from bullshitting her to trick her into giving me what I want.
Indeed, something that I think has been a big improvement in me in recent years is that I’m now better able to see the good in other kinds of people. So to the extent that there’s not as much of a difference between how I react to someone young and attractive and how I react to other people, it’s not that I’ve leveled downward by curing myself of overrating hot women; it’s that I’ve leveled upward by becoming more aware that people other than hot women also have a great deal to offer. So now I can often see people favorably, encourage them, express appreciation for them, and so on, even if I’m not the least sexually attracted to them, like men, children, the elderly, etc.
But anyway, Guinevere is a solid movie. I liked the characters, I liked most but not all of the particulars, and I liked that it got me thinking about various issues concerning relationships and especially this age difference thing and how people react to it.