Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Top Ten Movie Cougars

In lieu of a Five for Tuesday, I'm giving you Ten! Also, this entry is double-posted over at Scene Stealers, so check out the message board over there if you want to comment.

Directors ranging from Martin Scorsese to the Coen Brothers have made countless movies depicting older men cozying up to younger women who may or may not be naïve to the ways of romance (see also: Allen, Woody). But what of the kinder, older women who awaken young men to adulthood in the most giving way possible? I’m referring of course to cougars, to use the parlance of our time. Urbandictionary defines cougar as “a 35+ year old female who is on the hunt for a much younger male.” Some would say that any definition requires use of the word “pounce.” But whatever your take on the word's official meaning, let’s take a moment to celebrate the women who teach more than they tease, the Top 10 Movie Cougars.

10. Mrs. Betty Carver, "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" (1993)
Johnny Depp's Gilbert has the weight of the world on his shoulders. Well, perhaps just the weight of his family, but given his mother's considerable girth it probably feels the same. Gilbert allows himself only one indulgence, an affair with a married woman (Mary Steenburgen) whom he visits when delivering groceries. There is certainly pouncing. Involving ice cream. Though Gilbert is emotionally uninvolved and relatively unaffected when Betty leaves town after her husband's death, it sets him up for better things when a more age appropriate romance passes through town.
Betty: “Gilbert. I’ll need a delivery later.”

9. Alex Barnett, "Loverboy" (1989)
Needing extra cash to pay for college, Randy Bodek (Patrick Dempsey playing the same lovable asshole he always does) takes a summer job delivering pizzas. Finding the funds insufficient and frustration with the silly sombrero he has to wear, Randy stumbles into a more lucrative side job that involves the bedding of pretty much every married woman in town. Really, I could have chosen anyone from the female cast of this movie. But Alex (Barbara Carrera) is the one who sets the whole thing in motion. Thanks to her tutelage, before long Randy is toting roses, dressing in a tuxedo, and ballroom dancing with his clients. His business endeavor falls apart when his mother orders his services and he is nearly killed by a band of angry husbands led by Vic Tayback. Also, his girlfriend happens to be in town, forcing him to divulge how he had been earning funds to return to campus. She is initially furious, but his newfound dancing skills win her over and she forgives him.
Alex: “Dear Randy, of course I prefer you naked, but if you must wear something, it should be the best.”

8. Ellen Burroughs, "Class" (1983)
Jonathan is a nerdy, shy kid who gets a scholarship to a prestigious prep school. He is assigned to room with the rich and handsome Skip. After initially picking on Jonathan mercilessly, Skip makes it his business to get Jonathan laid. He sends him to a Chicago bar where Jonathan lucks into a mysterious older woman way out of his league and eagerly returns to tell Skip all about it. Ellen ends the tryst upon discovering that Jonathan is only 17, but it is not the last they see of each other. When he accompanies Skip home for Christmas, Jonathan is horrified to discover that Ellen is Skip’s mother. The affair continues in fits and starts. It’s probably not the best way for a shy kid to learn about love and sex. At least Skip can claim his mission was accomplished even if it wasn’t the way he envisioned it.
Jonathan: “You’re asking me, the turd?”
Ellen: “Well, you look like a pretty… sensitive turd to me.”

7. Nora Baker, "White Palace" (1990)
Released just seven months after Pretty Woman, White Palace was a more serious take on the situation. Also, it features Jason Alexander playing basically the same exact role. But instead of the ridiculous notion of a rich executive falling in love with a street hooker (perfectly spoofed by Dave Chappelle), James Spader is a successful but lonely widower who reluctantly falls for a diner waitress in St. Louis. She is a nurturing figure for him, able to help him overcome his grief with a steady diet of kitchen table sex. That he's 27 and she's 43 only makes their socio-economic differences that much more challenging. When he introduces her to his friends, the self-proclaimed “dumb hoosier” fails to fit in.
Nora: Honey, I got everything you need.

6. Marion Wormer, "Animal House" (1979)
When I was a kid, the Deltas seemed so mature and wise - even Pinto. Perhaps this is because Tim "Otter" Matheson and Peter "Boon" Riegert were already 30 years old. Regardless, when Otter picks up the dean's wife at a local grocery store by talking about his cucumber, it's immediately clear that she's the mature person in the conversation, showing up his banal banter with a more direct confidence. While Otter didn't need any education in the bedroom, Mrs. Wormer did present him with the ultimate conquest, and opportunity he clearly relishes from the moment she stumbles into the fraternity’s toga party. Despite his insipid efforts at making her a cocktail she clearly doesn’t need, Otter finds a way to stick it to the dean the best way he can.
Otter: “Mrs. Wormer, I’m so glad you could come.”
Marion Wormer: “Cut the crap. Get me a drink.”

5. Stifler's Mom, "American Pie" (1999)
The movie that popularized the term MILF delivered on the acronym's promise in a big way, and I'm not just talking about Jennifer Coolidge's hair. With the four male protagonists all having pledged to conquer virginity before the end of high school, Finch appears to be the farthest behind in the game after a disastrous bathroom incident. At the post-prom party, ever the mature teenager interested in the finer things, he goes looking for something unique and stumbles across a bored and lonely Stifler’s mother. The two click so well that Finch remains obsessed with her well into future movies.
Stifler’s Mom: “I’ve got some scotch.”
Finch: “Single malt?”
Stifler’s Mom: “Aged 18 years. The way I like it.”

4. Luisa Cortés, "Y Tu Mamá También" (2001)
Someone once described narrative storytelling as either “someone takes a journey or a stranger comes to town.” For teenagers Tenoch and Julio, both of these apply. Believing that they’re a lot more mature than they really are, the best friends decide to hit on Luisa at a wedding even though she is married. Perhaps they should have been more surprised when she agrees to go on a road trip with them to a secret beach whose location nobody knows, including them. Along the way, she teaches them about love and sex and generally how to act like an adult. She’s operating on an entirely different level than they knew existed. It's not that Luisa's so old, but more that her companions are so young and, um, impressionable. I won’t spoil the ending, but let’s just say that she opens their minds to things they never believed were possible.
Luisa: You have to make the clitoris your best friend.
Tenoch: What kind of friend is always hiding?

3. Maude, "Harold and Maude" (1971)
At 79 years old I don't know if Maude qualifies as a cougar because she's quite possibly too old to pounce without breaking a hip. But it doesn't stop her from garnering the carnal advances of the young and suicidal Harold. She doesn’t just give him a romp in the hay, but instills in him a real desire to live. Honestly, when someone first told me about this movie, I believed the premise was so far-fetched that there was no way the movie could work. But somehow the two characters really match, to the point where you’re not completely grossed out with the idea of Maude and Harold getting it on. Harold had younger women throwing themselves at him, well, at least his mother was throwing them at him, but he was only interested in pretending to kill himself in front of them. In the end, Maude changes his life, through the most surprising romance in movie history.
Maude: “A lot of people enjoy being dead. But they are not dead, really. They're just backing away from life. Reach out. Take a chance. Get hurt even. But play as well as you can. Go team, go! Give me an L. Give me an I. Give me a V. Give me an E. L-I-V-E. LIVE! Otherwise, you got nothing to talk about in the locker room.”

2. Norma Desmond, "Sunset Blvd." (1950)
Sometimes cougars aren’t just in it for the sex. Sometimes they take it all very, very seriously. When down on his luck screenwriter Joe Gillis stumbles into the washed up silent film star’s life he obtains sanctuary from money problems and a life on easy street. But he’s not in love with her. The more time he spends with Desmond, the sooner he realizes that she is completely insane. He wants to leave, but feels too much sympathy for her and enjoys the continued sugar momma treatment. SPOILER ALERT! He remains in the relationship as long as he can, but eventually declares he is ending it. Desmond is furious and shoots him in the back, killing him. The consolation is that it finally gives her the attention she has been craving and feels she deserves. END OF SPOILERS
Norma Desmond: No one ever leaves a star. That’s what makes one a star!

1. Mrs. Robinson, "The Graduate" (1967)
This has to be the most obvious #1 in Scene Stealers history, right? I'm tempted to write nothing at all, but here goes. Poor Benjamin Braddock never stood a chance. A young college graduate with no plans and no ambition, he is easily seduced by the wife of his father’s business partner. Though Ben is reluctant to engage in the affair, he doesn’t put up much of a fight. Throughout the relationship, Mrs. Robinson calls all the shots, telling Benjamin when and where to meet, and generally controlling his every move. After several months of assignations, Ben reluctantly develops interest in Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, Elaine. Whether Mrs. Robinson can be credited with giving Ben a jump start that leads to his obsession is debatable, but there’s no question that she helped remove him from his funk. One could argue that Mrs. Robinson was taking advantage of the meek Ben, or that his betrayal of her makes her the real victim. Either way, there’s no debate that she’s the #1 movie cougar of all time.
Benjamin: Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me. Aren’t you?
Mrs. Robinson: Benjamin, I am not trying to seduce you.
Benjamin: I know that, but please, Mrs. Robinson, this is difficult.
Mrs. Robinson: Would you like me to seduce you?
Benjamin: What?
Mrs. Robinson: Is that what you’re trying to tell me?

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