Movie Review: It’s Complicated (2009)

Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin in It’s Complicated

Photo: Universal Pictures

In my book Nancy Meyers is more hit than miss. Of her five directorial outings I have only missed The Parent Trap and would say Something’s Gotta Give is the one I liked the least out of the bunch and I still liked that one. I particularly enjoyed The Holiday and What Women Want is a satisfying diversion. That said, I enjoyed It’s Complicated more than all of them. Meryl Streep continually proves she is to never be doubted and Alec Baldwin carries over his award-winning “30 Rock” persona to feature film with absolute ease. Baldwin and Streep play off each other as if they had been doing it for years.

At the center of the story is Jane (Streep) a divorced mother of three with a highly successful Santa Barbara bakery. Jake (Baldwin) is her lawyer ex-husband who is now married to the woman (Lake Bell) he cheated on her with. Despite all this, the two have managed to form an amicable relationship. So, when they bump into one another in a hotel bar prior to their son’s college graduation things heat up a bit and Jane soon finds herself having an affair with her ex-husband, a situation explained in an excellent scene between Jane and her friends where she declares herself to be “the other woman.”

The film plays itself out rather predictably in terms of story, but there are moments and bits of dialogue you don’t count on that turn this one into something more than just your typical “the wrong side of forty” rom-com. John Krasinski (“The Office”) is primarily the recipient of some of the film’s more subtle and entertaining moments and he nails each of them despite his character’s curious demeanor.

Steve Martin, playing the third wheel and other suitor hoping for Jane’s hand, plays something of a soft-spoken role and one I was never entirely comfortable with. However, while a pot-smoking scene shared between Martin and Streep is one of the least subtle moments of the film, I had a lot of fun with it nevertheless.

My only real complaint about It’s Complicated is the film’s unimpressive opening as Meyers attempts to establish and introduce the core group of characters, but fails to do so as she relies on proceeding scenes to even explain what relation to the family some of the characters are. Meyers’s script had already been nominated for a Golden Globe before I sat down in the theater for my first screening, and to see the discombobulated way she lays out the players in this tale is not the sign of a script worthy of notoriety even if she does manage to land some clever one-liners throughout and tell an overall story I enjoyed.

However, I will say I expect several audience members may get annoyed by the characters on screen as their behavior is occasionally baffling. Going back to my problems with the script it was not immediately clear to me John Krasinski’s character was not part of Jane’s group of children. In fact he’s married to Jane’s daughter, but as the film plays out I would venture a guess not many of you out there have seen a group of siblings (and brothers-in-law) act like this. Others will likely have a problem with the caricature that is Lake Bell’s gold digging mistress-turned-wife and even Streep’s portrayal of a 50-something, sex starved woman defined by the men in her life. Then again, I would also say this isn’t exactly a film demanding that much scrutiny and if you’re looking at it with these complaints it was probably never a film for you.

Meyers delivers a film as stereotypical as you would expect when it comes to romantic comedies today, but she treated it with some semblance of fairness. Sure, we’re still sitting back and watching a group of whiny, rich white people discuss their “problems,” and, no, these problems aren’t exclusive to this demographic as most films would lead us to believe. But the fact the film ends with some measure of backbone, but not without a dose of schmaltz, it won me over enough to recommend it to audiences looking for a brief, romantic escape.



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