IT’S COMPLICATED **
MERYL STREEP is so spectacularly gifted that she adds dimension and substance to any film that she stars in.
She can even save some of them. Such is not the case with IT’S COMPLICATED. Brilliance can not necessarily move mountains. But she gives it a damn good run.
Her character JANE ADLER is a great looking, successful, wealthy Santa Barbara caterer in her fifties. Everything is going well for her. But she has no significant romance in her life.
She’s been divorced from her attorney ex husband JAKE (ALEC BALDWIN) for approximately a decade. He’s a charming manipulative shark who has no end of bad judgment where women are concerned. He cheated on Jane and left her for his current (much younger) wife.
Then his spouse Agness dumped him, ran off with another man, had a child with him – and Jake took her back anyway.
Jane and Jake have three children that are effectively immersed in young adulthood. Jane makes nice for the sake of her kids. It’s simpler and less stressful. But she’s long gotten over Jake and has resumed her life like nothing at all happened.
Jane hasn’t had time for much romantic frolicking in the past ten years. She’s had to take care of a thriving business and her family.
One of her girlfriends tells her up front that she’ll never have sex again if she doesn’t find someone to date. It doesn’t have to be earth shattering Romeo and Juliet style.
Just pick someone and do it all ready.
Jane’s son is graduating from college. She flies to New York to attend. While she’s checking into the hotel with her kids, she discovers that her ex is also registered at the same establishment.
Remembering what her friend told her, Jane dresses and grooms herself with care. She then goes downstairs to the hotel dining room. While she’s waiting at the bar to be seated, Jake saunters over.
He’s actually glad to see her. This fact surprises Jane enormously. It turns out his marriage has hit a few substantial snags. Jane is cautious and a bit wary.
Jake is smooth. Too smooth.
But the truth is that he never stopped loving her. He messed up badly. He’s always known that. Never more than now. It’s clear that they have some unfinished business to deal with.
They talk, they drink (a lot…), they dance and laugh. All of a sudden time stands still and it’s exactly like when they first met 30 years ago.
They go back upstairs…and the inevitable happens.
Jake is exultant. This is precisely what he wanted. In spite of the fact that he tells Jane that they should be together and he’s pushing hard to get back in her good graces, she did spend twenty years with this man.
She’s on to him.
Jane knows that Jake has unresolved feelings for her. But she is instinctively aware that he is not as hell bent on ending that marriage as he claims to be. It’s not a black and white situation.
However, their night of irrepressible passion turns into a full blown affair when Jake pursues Jane back in California. Jane not only can’t say no.
But she discovers that she doesn’t want to.
The fear and the guilt subside – to be replaced by a righteous kind of confidence and acceptance of the circumstances. She becomes rather gleeful about one upping her rival. Jake’s wife is a useless pill.
Of course it’s going to get…complicated.
Jane is renovating her house. Her earnest sincere architect ADAM (STEVE MARTIN) has had a crush on her for some time. But he’s just trying to find his own comfort zone after being divorced for two years.
He likes Jane a lot. Adam is a sweet, laid back guy. He would never impose on or pester anyone. At the first sign of trouble, he would bolt. But he can sense that there is something going on between Jane and her ex. That makes him very reluctant to put his cards on the table.
Jake also understands that there are a few sparks flying between Jane and her new employee. He has no right to be jealous.
But he is.
Jane is starting to feel uncomfortable. The last thing she wants to do is to hurt anyone. She is gradually becoming drawn to Adam and his gentle nature. But the sex with Jake is devastatingly good. Plus she knows him like a book – and they did have some fine years together.
She isn’t sure which path she should choose.
NANCY MEYERS (who wrote and directed) makes rom coms in a particular style. They’re generally shallow, silly and not terribly interesting.
(WHAT WOMEN WANT had its moments. But it realistically was a series of missed opportunities. SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE was only palatable because of the fabulous DIANE KEATON.)
IT’S COMPLICATED never actually gets off the ground. Its frequent attempts at humour are annoyingly unfunny until half way through when Jane decides to use the joint that Jake left for her. That evening happens to coincide with a date that she has with Adam.
So they go to a party and get absolutely blasted. From that point on, the hilarity hits frequently and often.
But there are some superlative pleasures to be found amongst the mediocrity.
JOHN TOLL (THE BURNING PLAIN, ALMOST FAMOUS, THE THIN RED LINE) is a genius cinematographer. The films he shoots are astoundingly beautiful. IT’S COMPLICATED is no exception.
Meryl’s stunning casually elegant wardrobe is designed by SONIA GRANDE (THE OTHERS, VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA). Jane looks incredible even when she’s lounging around the house in her ultrastylish spectacles.
The production values are first rate. It is a glorious looking picture.
But the actors really do deserve the lion’s share of the credit.
ALEC BALDWIN has superb comic timing. He and MERYL are exceptionally believable as ex marrieds. There is a shorthand between people that have been intimate and known each other that long. Those two manage to easily create that magic.
STEVE MARTIN fares just as well with the straight man scenario. ADAM’S not uptight. Just calmer, easier, quieter. He fits right into that unbalanced triangle.
The best surprise is JOHN KRASINSKI. He plays HARLEY, the boyfriend of MERYL’S oldest daughter. He affectionately calls JANE “boss.”
HARLEY has some of the funniest lines by virtue of the fact that he becomes aware of JANE and JAKE’S comings and goings while his girlfriend and her siblings have no clue whatsoever.
JOHN is charismatic as hell.
But MERYL is definitely the reason that this film works on any level at all.
We all know that she can do anything. She shows us how it’s done once again.
MERYL has rarely portrayed seductive women in her thirty year film career. But here she is warmly and naturally sensual. She always had a gorgeous kind of luminousness to her.
But when she was dancing with ALEC at the hotel, her long blonde hair was falling over one eye and she had this sly grin on her face that wouldn’t quit. She resembled a teenager about to get into a whole lot of trouble…and she was loving every minute of it.
This is another superb comedic portrayal from MERYL. But she also gets to be convincingly and disarmingly hot. That’s certainly a welcome deviation.
There is one thing to be said for IT’S COMPLICATED. Despite its ridiculous predictablity, there are some fascinating unusual events connected with it.
You never see movies about middle aged people living life, having scorching romances and casting caution to the wind. It’s all about the younger demographic.
Balanced depictions make more sense. We’re all going to get older. Eventually.
It thrills me to the depths of my soul to see one of my cherished heroes playing a romantic lead at this stage of her professional life (and looking damn good doing it too).
It’s also grand that Jane wasn’t punished or made to suffer for a bit of behaviour that was a little dicey. After all, the unexpected does happen. We’ve all done things like that on occasion.
Maybe more than once…?
I’ll take the fifth…