Meg Ryan Returns in
What Happens Later

Mismatched Couples Blogathon

Welcome to the Mismatched Couples blogathon hosted by Realweegiemidget Reviews and Cinematic Catharsis ! Back in the Golden Age of Hollywood, an actress was considered over-the-hill by thirty. When Jane Fonda turned forty in 1978, it made headlines with some surprise that her career was still viable at that advanced age. Thankfully, the cutoff has climbed steadily upward. To borrow a phrase from the seventies, “You’ve come a long way, baby!” Now over sixty, Meg Ryan returns to the screen in, what else, a romantic comedy, co-starring with David Duchovny in What Happens Later (2023).

When an airport is snowed in, two travelers, Bill (Duchovny) and Willa (Ryan) are both waiting around the terminal for the weather to clear. When Bill spots Willa, he visibly winces. Perhaps, he’s a wanted fugitive and she’s an F.B.I. special agent hot on his trail? But, F.B.I. agents don’t usually have Native American rain sticks like the one she’s carrying. So, more likely, she’s his ex and the last person on earth he wants to bump into. With a mass of blonde waves, Willa has a similar duck-and-cover reaction when she sees him. Inevitably, they have to acknowledge each other in an awkward meet again cute. As we learn, they were once a couple, living in the woods outside of Madison, Wisconsin. He’s William and she’s Willamina, both W. Davis. They look good together now and one can imagine what a glamorous pair they made twenty-five years ago. Not a matched set, though, personality-wise. She’s a magical thinker with a new age bent, hence the rain stick, and he’s good at math, albeit with a creative side. It was an imperfect match made before algorithms did the work on Tinder.

For all that, they were a rock and roll Gen X couple of the time, going out to  see grunge and Alternative bands. It’s fun hearing about their marathon Soundgarden concerts in Green Bay and that Pixies show that neither will ever forget. It’s a running gag how much Bill hates the piped-in new tunes in the terminal (some honestly aren’t that bad). It’s a night of fond memories and hard truths left unspoken when they split up. We watch as they repeatedly come together and pull apart again. As with any romantic comedy, will they or won’t they stop bickering long enough to make love, is the underlying question. It’s leap day so anything can happen.

Tom Hanks, Nora Ephron and Meg Ryan

Beautifully crafted, the movie, that she dedicates to Nora Ephron (her director in Sleepless in Seatle {1993} and You’ve Got Mail {1998}), is quite a feather in Ryan’s director cap. Not many leading ladies have transitioned to director. Lee Grant and more recently, Greta Gerwig, are among the few. It’s also a stroke of genius to pair Ryan, the queen of mismatched couple rom-coms, with Duchovny, best known as Fox Mulder, the true believing partner of skeptic Dana Scully in The X-Files.

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5 thoughts on “Meg Ryan Returns in
What Happens Later

  1. Pingback: NEWS… Welcome to Day 1 of the Mismatched Couples Blogathon – Realweegiemidget Reviews Films TV Books and more

  2. Color me and treat by your review of what sounds like a mature take on romantic comedy. I’ve never heard of what happens later, but I’m sold just for Meg Ryan and David duchovny on screen together!

  3. Can’t believe this COMPLETELY escaped my notice! I just watched the trailer, and it looks fun and wonderful – if only to live vicariously through their experiences in a near-abandoned airport.

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