Maybe it was just the particular media I happened to watch this week, but I have been thinking about chemistry. (No, not the kind I couldn't pass in high school.) But a different kind of chemistry. And what I am finding is that coupling among "mature" adults does not necessarily connote sedate or boring.
For example, I saw the film Quartet, and rather than getting caught up in the predictable trials of the fading divas in an assisted living facility, I was breathing hot and heavily every time Tom Courtenay and Maggie Smith were in the same room. Portraying former lovers, both these fine actors are well into their 70s. They look beautiful for their age and have no difficulty expressing all the components of what makes a relationship continue to sizzle.
Another night, I found myself watching one of my favorite movies of all time, Two For The Road. This one chronicles a marriage over more than a decade, through young passion to the more complex kind that comes when sex "isn't personal anymore," as luminous Audrey Hepburn tells deliciously distant Albert Finney. Maybe it was the fact that the actors -- both in their mid-30s at the time -- were involved off the set as well, but I haven't seen sheer chemistry sustain a film like that for a long time.
Likewise, as I watched my guilty pleasure, ABC's Nashville, I realized that it is the over-40 performers, in their twisting and turning relationships, that not only keep us watching, but keep us panting. The 20-somethings on the show are fine, but it's like, okay, enough whining, let's get to the sexy stuff generated by the older generations. This should be no surprise to Connie Britton fans, who watched her and Kyle Chandler steam up the small screen for several seasons on Friday Night Lights.
I won't include Amour here because, let's face it, serious illness is bound to curb sexual longing as quickly as the morphine. But take a look at those first few scenes. We are watching not just deep love that is suddenly challenged, but the kind of interior, pulsating heat the French seem to have mastered long ago.
On the flip side, consider how few matchups have worked on screen, ones that have been criticized for their fatal lack of chemistry: There is Justin Timberlake with, well, anyone; Mila Kunis with anyone; Natalie Portman with anyone. (Except Mila Kunis.) Maybe it's the fact that every romantic film these days has the couple eyeing each other across the room and then hopping into bed the next scene. But hey, I'm not going to revive the sentiments of my parents: You know, how Cary Grant and Grace Kelly practically burned down the theater with one kiss at the door? (Thank you, exploding fireworks.) And how Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert did the same with a curtain hung between them!
No, let's not go there, but we can take a moment to acknowledge and celebrate how those our age are occasionally being portrayed. And then there is real life, beginning with the First Couple, who are unquestionably the sexiest-ever White House residents. And anyone notice how Billary are more in synch than ever? (Power being the ultimate aphrodisiac.) Too bad Chris Evert and Greg Norman divorced. They were my sexy athletic pair of choice for the 10 minutes they couldn't take their hands off each other.
Most exciting is the fact that I know more than a few women and men who have found each other much later in life, and the attraction is palpable. One good friend has not only found a wonderful man -- both are close to 60 -- but she recently officiated at a wedding of a couple that had fallen in love in Italy (he was Italian, she an American studying abroad) 40 years ago. They tried to keep up the relationship over the next few years, but eventually each married in his and her own country, had children and eventually divorced.
Last year, he found her on Facebook and invited her to Italy for a visit. The chemistry was rekindled, obviously, and they married last summer in Los Angeles. To everyone else, he no longer looks the dashing Italian, nor she the dark-haired young beauty. But they still see each other that way and that's what matters.