Writer/Director: Nancy Meyers Notable Cast: Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, John Krasinski, Lake Bell
It’s been a strong year for women in the director’s chair. Kathryn Bigelow proved that when it comes to making a war film it isn’t always a “man’s game.” And while her estrogen propelled the testosterone-fuelled Hurt Locker, Nora Ephron and Nancy Meyers strong-armed Meryl Streep for a pair of romantic comedies. Earlier this year the sainted actress played Julia Child in Ephron’s Julie & Julia. In It’s Complicated, she dons an apron and spatula once again as she concocts French delicacies – this time as a divorced restaurateur.
As she did with Something’s Gotta Give, Meyers has made another film with the adult in mind. It starts with having a cast that’s mostly comprised fifty and sixty year olds. (The average age of the three principles is 58.) Having seen more romantic comedies this year than the average man would care to admit, the idea of originality is something of a rare occurrence. Most involve the traditional happily-ever-after scenario where a man and a woman end up together in the end. Sometimes there’s a “third wheel” (aka Suitor No. 2) who is an alternative to Suitor No. 1. But the viewer is smart enough to know that the woman won’t choose him; or will she? It’s Complicated uses this plot device but adds a little wrinkle: one of the suitors was once married to the woman!
Jane (Meryl Streep) finally sees her youngest son leave the nest egg. With the house all to herself, Jane looks to have some additions made to the kitchen and master bedroom. Jane’s ex, Jake (Alec Baldwin), is remarried – to mistress that destroyed their marriage – but he’s starting to have misgivings about the nuptials. (Younger mistresses don’t make the best wives it would seem.) Now Jake looks to reignite the flame that burned when he was with Jane. But there’s a problem: Adam (Steve Martin), the architect who is working on Jane’s remodeling project. Like Jane, he’s also dealing with a divorce. So they got that in common.
What Meyers does right is have Streep’s character be a self-reliant divorcee. After ten years of separation, Jane is able to keep up appearances with Jake at social gatherings, but the wound of her hubby’s betrayal is still sore. Had the window of the separation been a few months or a year, it would be hard to acknowledge Jake with anything but bad tidings. Jake is a good guy and he knows he screwed up, but what’s done is done. Yet he’s willing to risk his new marriage to get back with his ex. Both suitors have their good points, and Meyers has Jane in situations that make it difficult to choose the best one.
Meyers is a good at writing these situations and adding light touches, but even she is guilty of giving in to the female viewer too much by including two insufferable scenes involving Jane and her gal pals. It was like listening to the Ya-Ya Sisterhood as Jane confesses that she had sex with a married man – her ex. Now she’s the mistress. Notice how the circle of extramarital affairs revolves.
The film maintains a strong chemistry between the three leads even as complications arise. It takes awhile for the comedy to settle in before the laughs come in quick succession. Then the “well-this-is-how-I-feel-about-you-Jane” moment arises.
With the wattage given off by the stars, it’s easy to be blinded to the comedy’s faults. The climax and denouement are quick, and included within is another complication that neither Jane nor Jake thought of. The supporting cast is hit or miss, with The Office‘s John Krasinski as the strongest. He plays the fiancée of Jane’s daughter, and he’s the only one (other than Jane’s gal pals) that knows she’s having an affair with Jake. The set up to the discovery is a scene-stealing moment in a hotel lobby.
Another moment that will have the audience in stitches is one that has been semi-spoiled by a recut theatrical trailer that includes a few sequences not found in the original trailer. It involves a body, nudity and loud reactions. The sequence is so priceless that at the screening I attended I couldn’t hear anything in the movie for close to thirty seconds.
It’s Complicated is an okay romantic comedy, because it is a refreshing look at love with an older audience in mind. It doesn’t quite reach the heights of Meyers’ Something’s Gotta Give, but it’s a movie that grownups will like. They’ll laugh and love seeing Streep and Baldwin ham it up on screen. Though, it is hard to get past the clunky finale that derails the comedy’s momentum. But hey, don’t let this “complication” dissuade you from seeing it.
Travis Leamons is one of the Inside Pulse Originals and currently holds the position of Managing Editor at Inside Pulse Movies. He's told that the position is his until he's dead or if "The Boss" can find somebody better. I expect the best and I give the best. Here's the beer. Here's the entertainment. Now have fun. That's an order!