Written and Directed by: Nancy Meyers
Starring: Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin
Rated: R for some drug content and sexuality.
Romantic comedies are generally not my favorite genre, but I have a soft spot for Meryl Streep and for any film whose main character is a woman over the age of forty. “It’s Complicated” has both, and was directed by Nancy Meyers, whose “Something’s Gotta Give” back in 2003 was a pleasant tweaking of the standard romantic comedy. “It’s Complicated” takes the tweaking a bit further, which makes it even more enjoyable if you’re tired of the standard formula.
Jane (Streep) is the owner of a huge, rambling house in the hills and a bustling, successful bakery. Ten years ago, she divorced Jake (Alec Baldwin), a suave, charming, unfaithful lawyer. He’s since remarried — to the woman he cheated on Jane with. Jane, on the other hand, has devoted herself to raising their three kids, putting together her perfect house, and learning to be by herself.
As in “Something’s Gotta Give,” the sets here are magnificent. Who cares that it’s totally unrealistic for someone in Jane’s position to own a rambling mansion in the hills? It’s almost worth the price of admission just to stare at the kitchen she complains is too small. I’ve seen apartments smaller than her kitchen.
When Jane and Jake wind up staying at the same hotel for their middle child’s graduation, there’s a spark. A few bottles of wine later, and they’re having an affair. Jane finds herself, as she tells her circle of girlfriends in half horror, half glee, the other woman. Their consensus is that in this case, it’s just karma catching up to to Jake’s universally-loathed mistress-turned-wife.
Things are complicated by the arrival of the architect helping Jane plan an addition to her house: Adam (Steve Martin). He’s a sweet guy still getting over his divorce of a few years ago and Jake’s polar opposite in just about every way. Where Jake is charming and passionate and unreliable, Adam is sweet and a little bumbling and always on time.
Streep has effortless chemistry with both Baldwin and Martin, and she makes an engaging and believable heroine. Her horrified reaction to the discussion she has with a plastic surgeon who suggests she get a facelift is refreshing in the era of over-lifted actresses. Streep is gorgeous and aging with aplomb. The same can’t quite be said of Martin, who looks like he’s had one too many botox treatments. But his performance is sweet and funny, so if you can overlook his slightly-odd features, he’s very engaging. Baldwin is perfectly cast and looks like he’s having a ball as the thoroughly charming and dangerously attractive (though going a bit soft in the middle) bad boy of the picture.
It’s the little things that make “It’s Complicated” work as a piece of escapist entertainment. The interaction between Jane and her circle of girlfriends; the way Jane and Jake fall into their old patterns with her taking care of him and him pushing boundaries at every opportunity; the silly shenanigans that result when middle-aged folks who haven’t smoked pot since the 60s get hold of a joint.
“It’s Complicated” isn’t a great piece of art, it simply succeeds in what it sets out to do: be a charming, sweet romantic comedy about folks in their fifties. If you’re looking for brilliance, go elsewhere. But if you’re a bit tired of fresh young things being silly about love and want to see some older people be silly instead, don’t pass it up.