The title alone is enough to entice viewers, and those who do tune into “Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman” will be rewarded with a delightful romp that’s the Baby Boomer’s answer to “Bridget Jones’ Diary.”
Based on the best seller by Elizabeth Buchan, this story is just the kind of entertaining escape a TV movie should be. In less capable hands, pic could have been total camp. But star Christine Lahti is so perfect in the role of Rose — part Alison Janney in “West Wing,” part Jennifer Saunders from “Ab Fab” — execs may want to consider expanding the character into a series, should her gig on “Jack & Bobby” fall through.
Writer Nancey Silvers transposes the story from London to Los Angeles without losing any of the wit or panache that made Buchan’s book resonate so well with readers. And by tweaking a few subplots and letting Lahti demonstrate her comedic side, some may even prefer the movie version.
Pic opens in flashback when a young Rose, still reeling from a painful break up with the dashing, glob-trotting Hal, meets a sweet and understanding Nathan on a plane. Flash forward 25 years later, where Nate and Rose seemingly have it all — the fabulous house, successful, high profile careers, two great kids and an active sex life.
Rose, a book editor who really knows her stuff, feels as if she’s really just hitting her stride. In a voiceover she tells us, “Oprah said 50 is the new 30 and I believe her.”
She’s admired at work, is a mentor to her young colleagues and is seemingly doing everything right. When her ambitious assistant Mindy asks her how she does it all, Rose explains, “Women are brilliant, devious and cunning.”
Little does she know.
All of the personal axioms that Rose has been reciting suddenly fail her when Nate breaks the news that he’s leaving her for Mindy. To make matters worse, Mindy makes a power play for her job, and management is smitten with the notion of a younger, fresher approach.
Instead of turning into the typical woman scorned movie, where empowered by anger, our heroine seeks revenge; pic takes a decidedly comedic turn. Forget the stiff upper lip, or wallowing in self-pity. Rose does the next logical thing: She gets blasted with her best friend and starts making prank phone calls.
Rarely does a movie so adequately capture the less admirable road traveled without resorting to farce. Instead, director Sheldon Larry deftly conveys the irony of a world where it is better to age well and die early than live gracefully with wrinkles. Similarly, Silver’s script provides Rose with plenty of great dialogue in which to fight her supposedly losing battle
At one point, a misguided acquaintance patronizingly tells Rose, “When a couple divorces, it’s best to stay friends with the one you do business with. No offense.”
Rose quips right back. “None taken. I never liked you that much anyway.”
Instead of admitting defeat, Rose is empowered by these life-changing events in ways she never could have imagined, and while her reactions aren’t always appropriate, it’s a refreshing side to self-discovery.
Primary cast shine in their respective roles especially Lahti, although Kerwin makes a respectable case for Nate’s possible redemption. Bryan Brown is vastly underused as Rose’s old flame, but part of his character’s allure is, of course, the fantasy of what could have been or what might come.
The only real weak point is the characterizations of Rose’s kids. Granted, their dysfunctional and impetuous relationships serve as a reminder of choices taken and missed, but Maggie Lawson’s air-headed Rachel is a bit over the top, while Reid Scott as Sam is all but invisible.