Film criticism by Ian Kay.

It's Complicated (2009)

Review: “It’s Complicated” (2009), dir. Nancy Meyers

Synopsis from IMDB: “During her son’s college graduation, Jane (Streep) hooks up with her ex-husband, Jake (Baldwin), who’s married to a younger woman. As if being your ex’s mistress isn’t tough enough, Jane also finds herself drawn to Adam (Martin), a smitten architect.

And the award goes to… Ellen Chenoweth! What, you don’t know who that is? Ms. Chenoweth has won awards for casting. Indeed, she did the casting for the heavy-creamed Meryl Streep starrer It’s Complicated.  Oh so sweet (yet thick) and predictable, this picture was nonetheless carried by its enormously charming lead stars (Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin).

While no one in the film had much to work with as far as script or plot, the real-life experience (and intelligence) of these middle-aged stars lent quite a bit of validity to the otherwise flat characters. In order to avoid dwelling on negatives, I’ll just say that the supporting cast was forgettable (the children bordering on insipid).

I will say that there was one particular sequence that was genuinely funny. At one point Meryl Streep’s character convinces Martin’s character to get stoned. These two – and admittedly,  some of the editing and slo-mo effects – played off the attempted “seriousness” of the rest of the film by walking the edge of goofiness.  While acting the stoned fools, they nonetheless restrained from absurdity;  and for a moment, they (and we) were relieved of the oppressive heaviness hanging over their lives (and the film itself).

Alec Baldwin plays up his “30 Rock” role again – and he does it well, pulling a nice handful of laughs from the crowd.  But he is a symbol, a cliche (as he even calls himself in the movie). He’s a slick-talking lawyer who cheated on his wife. He values sex above all else. He doesn’t even really know what he really wants.  It would have been nice to see his character do something that gave us the slightest inkling of what he was really about – all we know about him are his words, and we know we can’t trust that.

Martin’s character is even thinner; here, he represents the “good man”. He’s vulnerable, he’s steady, he’s (apparently) honest.  But Martin, even more than Baldwin, has the potential to show so much more depth. It’s a shame that so often he’s been called upon to wave his charm at the screen and nothing else.

Meryl Streep is Meryl Streep. She is excellent. Far more excellent than the screenplay should have allowed for.