December 23, 2009

It's Complicated

You're old...isn't that funny?

Grade: C

Director: Nancy Meyers

Starring: Meryl Street, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, John Krasinksi, and Lake Bell

MPAA Rating: R

Running Time: 1 hour, 58 minutes

“It’s Complicated” is, indeed, but just not in the way one would expect. At its rail-thin best, it is a leisurely tale about two former spouses who – years after he, Jake (Alec Baldwin), left she, Jane (Meryl Streep), for a younger set of abs with a conspicuously natty name, Agness (Lake Bell) – begin to rendezvous in secret at sundry bedrooms and her kitchen. Being that the ways to a man’s heart are through his stomach and other lower extremities, it is little wonder that Jake begins to long for the comforts of what might have been instead of weekly trips to the fertility clinic with his headstrong trophy wife. There is something relevant here to ponder: The vain hunt for eternal youth versus the earned dividends of hearth and home.

It’s a universal story, really. Oh, unless you don’t own a boutique bakery and live in a sprawling Santa Barbara ranch house that you want to remodel with a new kitchen and bedroom (sledgehammer irony alert…). Or, if you’re not a Porsche-driving attorney who can apparently spend every waking minute jetting from coast-to-coast to jump in the sack with your ex-wife. Or, unless your grown children aren’t a gaggle of lobotomized Stepford kids who can emote either hurt or hilarity, but only on cue, and who have married and/or graduated college but always seem to be around for dinner parties and sleepovers where the whole family dons their pajamas and munches popcorn while watching The Graduate.

In truth, It’s Complicated is more the insular perspective of writer-director Nancy Meyers, whose innocuous parables of independent women that she wrote while married in her 20s and 30s – Private Benjamin and Baby Boom –have given way to pseudo-feminist pap the now-divorced Meyers spins about high-strung, self-pitying SoCalers of privilege with “problems” the average moviegoer could only hope to have the chance to suffer – Something’s Gotta Give, The Holiday, and now this.

Poor Jane feels a bad case of empty nest syndrome coming on, despite her bustling business, creature comforts, dalliance with Jake, and the non-threatening advances of her architect, Adam, played by an emasculated Steve Martin. All the while, she is cheered on her middle-aged coffee klatch – including the suddenly ubiquitous Rita Wilson, happy to walk-through only her third-worst film of 2009 behind Old Dogs and My Life In Ruins.

Movies are about escapism, and perhaps some will identity with scenes in which Jane and Jake both mourn and guffaw how time (and, in Baldwin’s case, bad eating habits) have ravaged their once-youthful bodies. But, jokes like Jane and Adam rediscovering the joys of getting stoned are overbroad and simple-minded – usual only to allow Martin to flash some glimpse of his inner wild and crazy guy. Almost every one-liner, sight-gag, and screwball set piece falls flat, none of them advancing the film’s purportedly complex tableau.

Fans of Baldwin and John Krasinksi will barely recognize them as the same talented comic actors from 30 Rock and The Office, respectively. For her part, Streep is in full Mamma Mia mode, trying to use her trademark chortle to mask the film’s numerous cinematic sins. Alas, this task proves too complicated, even for one of our greatest film actresses.

Neil Morris

No comments: