Review: It's Complicated
PLOT: Jane is finally getting her life in order. Ten years ago, when she found that her husband Jake was having an affair, her world fell apart. And now, when her family is gathered for her sonís graduation, she finds herself having a night of drunken sex with her ex. All of this is made even more complicated due to the fact that she has recently developed some feelings for a new man in her life. So yeah, I guess it is complicated.
First off, Iím not always a fan of Nancy Meyers as a writer or director. I did however love her first film featuring a young Goldie Hawn in the comedy PRIVATE BENJAMIN. But generally, her work has a lot of sentiment surrounded much too often by clichťd comedic elements that donít ring true. And yes, her latest certainly has its share of poorly staged comedic moments that fall flat. Yet, ITíS COMPLICATED did something that I didnít expect, it was sort of touching and even had a handful of truly funny moments. This story of a divorced couple having an affair after a ten-year separation works for many reasons. Well, actually four of them. If it werenít for the fine performances of Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin and even John Krasinski, this might not have been quite as good as it is.
This dramedy centers around a successful businesswoman who has finally straightened her life out after a messy divorce. About ten years ago, Janeís then husband Jake had an affair with a younger woman. Even worse, the younger woman soon turns into a nice and shiny new wife. Of course, this left Jane and her three children to try and piece together a heartbreaking situation. But somehow, Jake and Jane have found a way to be civil to each other. And when they are together for their sonís graduation, the two of them have a few drinks, and end up having a fling, which not surprisingly, turns into an affair. Things get even more complicated when Jane begins falling for a gentleman named Adam (Martin) who she hired to make a few additions on her house. Thankfully, unlike the trailer might make you think, the film is not a series of bad jokes and pratfalls, it spends a little extra time getting to know these people, and hopefully connecting to them. And for the most part, I did.
Yes, you read that correctly, Itís Complicated is quite entertaining. Mostly because it is fueled by a terrific performance by the wonderful Ms. Streep. It is such a nice surprise to see her, wrinkles and all, as the leading lady in a romantic comedy. She is charming and her work here is downright infectious. It is hard not to smile as she confronts growing old with reliving her honeymoon years, with a husband (Baldwin) who left her for a hotter, younger woman (a nice performance from Lake Bell as the trophy wife). Early in the film, when her youngest daughter is moving out of the house, Meryl steps inside this now empty home and just smiles the sadness away. And this is where the film works. Sure this talented cast can do the funny when necessary, but it is far more interesting to see the emotional aspects of the film played out.
While Alec Baldwin is by far the most over the top player in this romantic triangle, he still manages to give a strong show. Both he and Streep are absolutely believable as a couple wondering what went wrong. You see the trouble he is dealing with as his new wife is looking to have a child and forcing him to go to a fertility clinic. But he more than the others has to suffer through a couple of ridiculously unfunny bits of what looks like it wants to be slapstick. One scene involves him spying on his ex and her date. You know that he is going to fall, or make a scene, or do something else clichťd. And while it is not necessarily a bad thing to go for this kind of broad comedy, it certainly isnít going to work if you donít follow through. It is almost like Ms. Meyers wants to go for the huge guffaws, but then she backs away making the entire experience pointless.
As good as Baldwin and Streep are together, it is the relationship between her and Martin that really shined for me. Steve Martinís performance as the nice guy who keeps getting screwed over is terrific. And aside from the three leads, I also really appreciated John Krasinski, as the husband of Jake and Janeís oldest daughter, he may very well give the funniest performance. Pretty impressive when you can hold your own against this kind of talent. These four actors make it easy to forgive many of the problems here. While Meyerís script is not terrible, it sometimes confuses funny for just plain obnoxious. The absurd behavior of the siblings is beyond annoying. Sure you might believe that the youngest daughter might still be having problems because mommy and daddy arenít together, but when all the children act like overly sensitive morons, it just comes across as pathetic. Yet thankfully, the weak elements are somewhat forgivable thanks to the leads. While Itís Complicated may not be as complicated as it wants to be, it has just the right amount of appeal to put a smile on your faceÖ and make you never, ever want to get divorced. My rating 7/10 -- JimmyO