I'm Going to Be So Dench

July 2nd, 2013

One of the best things about traveling overseas is the free movies you get on the plane. I almost never see movies in movie theaters: I pretty much stopped going when my kids were little. My husband and I  hired a babysitter one night (10 dollars an hour for five hours=$50), bought our tickets (two for $12.50= $25), and indulged in various snacks (popcorn+candy+drinks=another $25). Parking brought the total up over $100 . . . and all this to see the Michael Bay movie The Rock, which I stared at for approximately two hours, thinking alternately This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seenMy ears hurt, and I miss the kids. I felt angry when we walked out and said to my husband, “From now on, we’re not going to the movies unless there’s something I’m dying to see.”

That’s when I discovered there’s never anything I’m dying to see. I can always wait. We had HBO and Netflix, and sooner or later everything ended up there, so any time Rob suggested we hire another babysitter and go see a movie, I would shrug and say, “Why spend all that money and deal with the crowds? Let’s stay home and watch something here.”

The habit stuck and even now, when we don’t have to hire babysitters anymore and the kids themselves see first-run movies with their friends, I rarely go to the cinema. It still seems overpriced and I guess I’m picky: more often than not, I walk out feeling disappointed.

But, as a result, being on an airplane with free movies that were in the theaters just a couple of months earlier was heaven. I hadn’t seen anything so I glutted myself with big releases like Skyfall, starring Dame Judi Dench, and then moved on to smaller movies, including (on the flight back)  Quartet, starring Dame Maggie Smith.

Now, I love Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, and always have. I can’t remember the first thing I saw Dench in, but I will never forget seeing Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie back when I was a kid. She was incredible–equally frustrating and fascinating, a quality she’s retained into her seventies.  She and Dench are the exact same age (I just discovered that–ain’t Google grand), and I stared at these two women in their movies and thought, I want to age like them.

Neither actress is as thin as she was in her twenties. They both have sensible haircuts and favor flowing outfits. Their faces are lined. You would not look at either of them from any angle and mistake her for a thirty-year-old. And they’re both absolutely beautiful. It’s no surprise that they can still play romantic leads  (most recently Smith in Quartet and Dench in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel).

I live in LA. Women age badly here. And by that I don’t mean that they look older than they are. I mean they just don’t know how to do it right. They fight their wrinkles and waistlines like they’re viruses, and cling to tight outfits and long hair and smooth foreheads way past the point when they look right on them anymore. I don’t find these women beautiful. I find them scary.

Which isn’t to say that when you turn fifty, you should throw your hands up in the air and start wearing a muumuu and shuffle around on worn slippers, eating wafers and letting the crumbs fall where they may. There’s nothing wrong with looking good. Just . . . I want to look good for my age.  I want to be Judi Dench or Maggie Smith. I do not want to be Sharon Stone or Madonna.

On the airplane I also watched an episode of Graham Norton’s British talk show, and he brought up the fact that “Dench” has become street slang for “cool.”(It’s true–check it out in the urban dictionary.) Teenagers go around saying “That’s so Dench!”

Of course they do. Because what’s cooler than someone who’s comfortable with who she is?

And that’s why I want to grow up to be just like her.

Look how beautiful.

Look how beautiful.