Title: If I Were You
Director: Joan Carr-Wiggin
Starring: Marcia Gay Harden, Leonor Watling (‘Dark Impulse’), Aidan Quinn and Joseph Kell (TV’s ‘CSI: Miami’)
Creating a realistic film focusing on a middle-aged woman who is driven by humor, rage and passion, instead of being a submissive, two dimensional supporting character, can be a difficult task for a filmmaker, particularly on a short schedule and limited budget. But writer-director Joan Carr-Wiggin broke many per-conceived stereotypes of older women in her new independent comedy-drama ‘If I Were You,’ which chronicles how a woman can fix her marriage after she learns of her husband’s unexpected affair. The filmmaker created two strong leading roles for women, including the middle-aged wife and her husband’s younger mistress, who have different perspectives on marriage, butsurprisingly form a true friendship.
‘If I Were You’ follows the always reliant and stable Madelyn Reid (Marcia Gay Harden) as she accidentally witnesses her husband, Paul (Joseph Kell), having an affair with a young actress, Lucy (Leonor Watling), in a local restaurant. Trying to gather information about Paul and Lucy’s relationship, Madelyn follows Lucy home from the café. Madelyn convinces a visibly upset Lucy not to commit suicide after Paul tries to end the affair, and the two women surprisingly become best friends.
The two women decide to take each other’s advice on everything, in order to improve their lives. The plan backfires on Madelyn when Lucy convinces her to portray the title character in an amateur community production of ‘King Lear,’ with Lucy playing The Fool. Madelyn’s life stars to unravel even more when Lucy offers her advice on an amorous coworker and a handsome stranger, Derek (Aidan Quinn), with whom she forms an instant connection.
Harden was well cast as the lead role of Madelyn in ‘IF I Were You,’ as the Academy Award-winning actress perfectly embodied the ever dwindling self confidence of a women experiencing a mid-life crisis. She initially portrayed Madelyn as an emotionally relatable woman who’s successful in her career, and has an apparently stable marriage, whose life is instantly shattered when she accidentally learns of her husband’s infidelity. While Madelyn has some unpredictable, yet understandable, moments of despair as she tries to navigate and understand the new meaning of her life, such as drinking right before an important research meeting at her job and subsequently rejecting the advances of one of her coworkers, she comes to represent all women’s desire to control their husband’s actions. Harden evolves the often taken advantage of wife and marketing research firm employee into a woman who isn’t afraid to do whatever it takes to get what she wants.
Carr-Wiggin created a humbling, charismatic script that’s driven by diverse characters struggling to redefine their live paths and find meaning in their places in society. While Madelyn is represented as the mature older woman who’s reflecting on how her marriage disintegrated without her realizing, and is searching for someone who will truly understand her, Lucy is her complete opposite. Lucy is still struggling to find her talent and a career that suits her, as well as a man who loves her for who she is. She falls back on temporary office work and an affair with Paul, as both fail to provide her with a long-term commitment and a chance to get hurt.
Sean Breaugh made an impressive feature film debut as a production designer on ‘IF I Were You,’ having created intimate settings that effectively show each character’s personality and motivations. He created an impressively decorated and furnished house for Madelyn and Paul that showcased their professional achievements, but there was few personal mementos, such as photographs, that highlight their personal connection. Lucy’s apartment, meanwhile, features more free-spirited items, such as wicker furniture and a decorative chandelier, that emphasize her belief that things that are meant to happen will work themselves out. While Madelyn and Lucy’s homes are decorated vastly differently and showcase their true personalities, the public places they meet each other highlight their growing influence on each other. The theater where the two women rehearse their play, for example, often appears dark and is small and cluttered with props, showing how Madelyn is restricting Lucy’s life by not telling her the truth of who she really is.
‘If I Were You’ is a captivating comedy-drama that relatably portrays the insecurities and shortfalls of a marriage that has lost its romance, and the extreme lengths a middle-aged woman will go to redefine her life and form stronger relationships. Harden effectively plays Madelyn as doing whatever it takes to get what she wants, even if it means befriending her husband’s mistress. The intriguing relationship Carr-Wiggin created between Madelyn and Lucy is driven in part by Breaugh ‘s realistic production designs, as he created intimate settings that effectively show each character’s personality and motivations. The comedy-drama creatively shows the unpredictable and unexpected consequences of a chance encounter, and the lengths people will go to in order to change their fate.
Written by: Karen Benardello