Sunday, January 3, 2010

Movie Review: It's Complicated

It’s Complicated ***
Directed By:
Nancy Meyers.
Written By: Nancy Meyers.
Starring: Meryl Streep (Jane), Steve Martin (Adam), Alec Baldwin (Jake), John Krasinski (Harley), Lake Bell (Agness), Hunter Parrish (Luke), Zoe Kazan (Gabby), Caitlin Fitzgerald (Lauren), Mary Kay Place (Joanne), Rita Wilson (Trisha), Alexandra Wentworth (Diane).

Nancy Meyers has specialized in making romantic comedies about women of a certain age. Her most successful film before It’s Complicated is Something’s Gotta Give, where Diane Keaton played a divorced woman who falls in love with Jack Nicholson, a man who mainly loves much younger women. It’s Complicated follows a similar trajectory. In the film, Meryl Streep plays Jane, a woman who has been divorced from her husband Jake (Alec Baldwin) for 10 years. Jake left her for Agness (Lake Bell), a much younger woman. The divorce not only devastated Jane, but her entire family. It has taken her years to get over it. Now, with the last of her children going off to college, she finally feels comfortable in her own life. Then two men come into her life. The first is her ex-husband who frustrated with his marriage, has decided that Jane maybe the answer to his prayers. While celebrating their son’s University graduation in New York, they get drunk and fall into bed together. Jane feels guilty, but not guilty enough to stop the affair. The other man is Adam (Steve Martin), an architect working on an expansion to her house. He is also divorced, and understands Jane in a way that Jake never has.

In a way, the film is refreshing. Most Hollywood movies sees any woman over 50 (or if we’re going to be really honest, 40), as merely mothers in supporting roles. But It’s Complicated sees Jane as a complex, sexual being - someone still searching for something in her life. Life does not end at 50 - in her case, perhaps its just getting started.

The performances in the movie keep the film interesting. Streep is a great actress, capable of playing drama or comedy with the same ability. At well over 50, she remains one of the best actresses working in the world right now. It must be frustrating for other actresses her age, because there are so few great roles for women their age, and Streep seems to get most of them. As Alec Baldwin has proven in the last few years, he is a comedic genius, and Jake is a perfect match for his sensibilities. We like and hate him in equal degrees, and Baldwin plays the contradictions well. Martin has the least interesting character, a sweet man struggling with divorce and romance, who in Jane finds a kindred spirit. Strangely, as he is the actor most known for comedy of the three of them, he essentially plays the straight man here.

The problem with It’s Complicated, what keeps it from becoming a much better film than it is, is the same problem I had with Something’s Gotta Give. It’s that while Meyers is talented at coming up with interesting concepts for her movies, and creating funny moments (and there are some hilarious ones in the film), she doesn’t do as well as completely fleshing out her story. Once the concept has been established, she simply repeats it in scene after scene. It’s a fascinating idea of a formerly married couple having an affair, but Meyers takes the easy road with the film.

That’s not to say that It’s Complicated is not enjoyable from beginning to end. It is. It’s just that after Meyers came up with a great concept, she doesn’t quite follow through on it. It’s Complicated is a fine film, but it should have been better.

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