Meryl Streep, who is officially a genius angel sent from a better dimension, is funding a screenwriting lab for women over 40. The initiative aims to create opportunities for that contingent, and it'll be run by New York Women in Film and Television and IRIS, a collective of women filmmakers. Because this idea is so brilliant, we'll toast a bunch of 40+-year-old female screenwriters whose works are available on Netflix now.
The Kids are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko)
Aside from the fact that “The Kids are All Right” feels like a prime James L. Brooks feature, the 2010 family drama gives you a myriad of irresistible moments and performances. Annette Bening is biting and funny as an alcoholic lesbian mother; Julianne Moore is harried and loving as her conflicted wife. Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, and Josh Hutcherson add perfectly pitched dramedy with their sincere roles. You want to hug this movie, but you also want to stand back and admire it for being a movie made by adults, for adults, with adult-seeming characters at every turn. Props to co-screenwriter and director Lisa Cholodenko for making the 2010 Academy Awards interesting with her charming work.
A Star is Born ('37; Dorothy Parker, with Robert Carson and Alan Campbell)
Did you know Dorothy Parker was nominated for two screenwriting Oscars? She sure was. The legendary epigrammist collaborated on the scripts for the original Janet Gaynor “A Star is Born” and “Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman,” which also garnered Susan Hayward a Best Actress nomination. Some have argued that the original “A Star is Born” is best, and judging by the problems with the '54 version (which is inexcusably long) and the '76 version (which is just inexcusable), I'm tempted to agree.
Heartburn (Nora Ephron)
“Heartburn” is for women born in the '70s what “Clue” is to gay men born in the '80s: a beloved sleeper classic that we all suddenly realized we've watched hundreds of times. Meryl Streep is an odd romantic partner for Jack Nicholson, but their cool rapport here feels singular that way. Trivia: “Heartburn” is one of two movies to star two currently living three-time Oscar winners. Can you name the other movie? I'll give you a moment to think it over. Aaaaand time's up: The answer is 1987's “Ironweed,” which also starred Streep and Nicholson. This means that neither Streep nor Nicholson has starred in a movie with Daniel Day-Lewis. Shall we all cry together?
Clueless (Amy Heckerling)
I've said a lot about the staggering, unerringly hilarious “Clueless.” I would call it my favorite comedy of the '90s easily. Today we'll focus on the singular awesomeness of Amber, who is more of a bad-ass “frenemy” than anyone in “Mean Girls.” Amber is never, ever nice to Cher, yet she's always present in her friend circle. This seems senseless in one way, but Amber's self-possessed rancor is too much fun to deny. Why wouldn't you keep a bratty redhead in your posse, even if she was constantly vicious to your face?
Fried Green Tomatoes (Fannie Flagg)
We really, really need more movies written by “Match Game” panelists. Fannie Flagg spent years doling out funny responses to BLANKing questions on the Gene Rayburn game show, and she almost always had to sit next to that self-satisfied lout Richard Dawson. Flagg outshone everyone on the series with her 1987 book “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe” and the subsequent screenplay for the '91 film adaptation. Sit back and let Jessica Tandy, Kathy Bates, Mary-Louise Parker, Mary Stuart Masterson, and Cicely Tyson charm the HELL out of you. I want to give a big shout-out here to Parker, who did her best to preserve the authenticity of the lesbian drama in the original book, since it ended up becoming more coded in the screenplay.
Frida (Anna Thomas, Diane Lake)
This is a movie everyone can stand to revisit. Frida Kahlo, the revolutionary Mexican artist who saw herself as a muse and created unbelievable masterworks to explore her inspiration, married the artist Diego Rivera and even palled around for a time with Leon Trotsky, played here by Geoffrey Rush. Though Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina are fabulous as the brilliant couple, pay special attention to Edward Norton's appearance as Nelson Rockefeller.