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It’s Complicated (2009) **

April 27, 2010

written by: Nancy Meyers

produced by: Nancy Meyers & Scott Rudin

directed by: Nancy Meyers

Rated R (for some drug content and sexuality)

120 min.

U.S. release date: December 35, 2009

DVD & Blu-ray release date: April 27, 2010

As much as the capable and talented actors under the direction of Nancy Meyers (“Something’s Gotta Give” & “The Holiday”) try to convince us that wealthy white folks in Santa Barbara lead a “complicated” life, there is little here to convince us. Now, that didn’t stop me from getting swept away in the relaxing score (Hanz Zimmer channeling Dave Grusin) and kicking back to what I knew would be an easy-going plot but there was this nagging tug in the back of my mind. That tug was probably a constant reminder that these characters live such a lavish, insular life that it’s almost impossible to connect to any of them. Almost.

It’s easy to connect to feelings of regret, betrayal and randy horniness when it comes to love, something that both main characters convey here. But it’s just hard to completely feel sorry for them as they edge past their middle-age crises when you consider everything they have. Now, I can see divorcees in their 60’s chuckling at some of the situations here, after all, this is supposed to be a comedy but too often the situations these characters get themselves in only display their own selfishness, desperation and gullibility.

Jane (Meryl Streep ) is a self-reliant owner of a thriving bakery who has gotten used to living along for a decade now after her divorce from Jake (Alec Baldwin). She is elated that she is finally able to build an addition to her beautiful house because the kitchen is just to small. Doesn’t seem like any complications yet. All three of their kids are adults now with their youngest about to graduate college. Jake, a successful attorney, is now re-married to Agness (Lake Bell), a woman old enough to be his daughter.  He seems to be doing well too. At a graduation party for their son though, we start to see it….Jake cannot take his eyes off of Jane. And Jane can’t seem to stop noticing how young Agness is.

When they attend their son’s graduation ceremony in New York, one too many at the hotel bar leads to an awkward, yet familiar, morning after.  This stirs up renewed interest in Jake for his former wife and he also becomes nostalgic for the family life he’s missed out on. Meanwhile, Jane is kicking herself. How did she let this happen? She’s an in-control, confident empty nester. What will she tell her fellow ex-bashing girlfriends? Oh, the drama! Really? Are we really supposed to feel sorry or laugh with these people. Sure, some of the situations are comical but overall, there’s nothing funny about one ex becoming a stalking and self-seeking horndog (maybe he always was) while another is actually entertaining and then engaging the idea of being “the other woman”.

Meyers, who also wrote this over-reaching comedy, is asking too much of her audience if she expects us to just fall in line here. Jane wonders if she’s made a colossal error by going along with Jake for his afternoon delights while keeping this from their children. Sure, their kids are adults now but they should know that their long-gone and remarried father is now calling his wife’s vagina “home”. Yikes. Well, after a decade free from this jerk, it’s pretty sad that the audience knows better than she does.

The worse part is she’s totally missing out on what she could have with her nice architect Adam (Steve Martin) who plays her doomed suitor, until he wisens up. Martin is actually wonderful as the straight guy but when he derails off into looney antics it feels forced.  As if  Meyers didn’t trust that we would by him as “the stand-up guy”.

Thankfully, the script actually wisens by showing a little reality toward the later half of the film. Which is a good thing since there’s only so many pot jokes, doughy male nudity and incorrigible situations we should tolerate. Eventually, Jane has to come to a decision in her unexpected love triangle and things do end up in a more realistic direction. She also has to explain a few things to her kids and her soon to be son-in-law, Harley (John Krasinski) who was on to them the entire time. It’s a relief Meyers has chosen substantial actors here because if this was Diane Keaton wearing turtlenecks again, I think I would’ve screamed!

These actors actually take the ridiculousness and unfortunate broadness of the script and make the most of it. Regardless of whether or not we buy what’s happening with this characters, it’s hard to not go along with them and see how the dysfunction will unfold. Unsurprisingly, Streep carries the film, especially when she reconnects with her sexuality. And Baldwin is right there with her. While it’s a little hard to detect any chemistry between the two, there’s no denying that Baldwin isn’t great at playing the incredulous, horndog scumbag. Looking back, those are some of his best roles. Here, he brings a vulnerable sobriety to that archetype that is refreshing. In a commendable turn, Baldwin is emotionally and physically putting it all out there.

The one element about this film that stands out for me in its favor is the age of the characters. As awkward as it is at times to see Streep and Baldwin role around in the sack, I appreciate that these are characters in their late 50’s. Just like I don’t believe age should play a factor in action roles, I also don’t believe we should see age limit the varied stages of love in all its forms. I say bring it on, funny or not, just make it believable.

Meyers has maintained this genre niche in which she displays the dilemmas of privileged Caucasians in all their self-obsessed material excess. She’s maintained this genre but I can’t say she’s mastered it nor should she. Her films just seem to be recycling the same sweetly smug adult characters who behave like children. Can we see ourselves in any of this? As I mentioned above….almost. Does it matter? Probably not but it would help. That seems to be good enough here and all you can expect with A-list pedigree actors settling for a tired yet charming screenplay. In no way does this film live up to its title but it is still entertaining to sit back and life and “complicated” the lives of the rich and famous are.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Wendi permalink
    April 27, 2010 11:57 am

    Sure I can’t relate to the characters but it was really nice kitchen porn.

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      April 27, 2010 12:04 pm

      Right! Betwen this and “Julie & Julia” I think I gained 10 lbs!

  2. windi permalink
    April 27, 2010 6:20 pm

    I JUST rented this this afternoon! Before I saw the review. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting a great comedy, but I’m hoping it’s good. The previews looked good. I’ll let you know what I think! 🙂


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