Monday, January 04, 2010
(Dir. Nancy Meyers, 2009)
A recent New York Times Magazine profile of the writer/director of this film opened with this set-up: "Nancy Meyers makes movies set in beautifully appointed, but not opulent, houses about attractive, but not perfect looking, people in which the, unintentionally seductive, middle-aged woman always triumphs."
That pretty much nails Meyers' formula especially her previous work SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE which had Diane Keaton in the "unintentionally seductive middle-aged woman" role now inhabited by Meryl Streep. What's nice to report is that the formula fits this film much better as it's a much sharper minded work with less contrived instances of broad comedy.
A bubbly giddy Streep is Myers' plucky protagonist - she's been divorced for a decade from the, of course, charming Alec Baldwin, but can muster civility in his presence even when he's accompanied with his young wife (Lake Bell). Streep runs a bustling bakery and has her business life in order, but her friends (Rita Wilson, Mary Kay Place, and Alexandra Wentworth who all act like giggling school girls) all think her love life needs help.
Conveniently a nice, also divorced, architect she hires for an addition to her home played by Steve Martin might make for a promising suitor. What's not convenient is that Streep has just started an affair with her ex-husband Baldwin.
Baldwin wants to get back together but Streep is filled with doubt - giddy doubt. The giddiness is infectious as the couple hides their fling from their offspring - Hunter Parrish (Weeds), Zoe Gazan, and Caitlin Fitzgerald. John Krasinski (The Office - USA) as Fitzgerald's husband to be, happens to catch sight of the offending party at a hotel and that sitcom-ish detail almost derails the delivery, but the film still breezes along quite convincingly. Like a witty stage production, the one-liners and earnest declarations of the characters will be what stays with appropriate audiences.
By appropriate I don't just mean the middle-aged woman market - there is much for most men or women who've been around the block a few times to relate to and be amused by.
When Streep describes herself as "the kind of person who makes fun of people who get plastic surgery" as she consults a surgeon and later stops in front of a mirror asking out loud: "Is that what I look like?" it's extremely endearing.
She's one of the biggest movie stars on the planet yet we can sympathize with her aging insecurities like she's our next door neighbor. Her smiling eyes along with Baldwin's longing stares and Martin's sad squinting are warming visages of world weary actors who are still at the top of their game.
"Wow. So that's how grown-ups talk." Streep says after Martin puts his feelings on the table when the complications implied by the title come to light, and for the most part that is true of the film.
Sure, some predictable comic conventions (like the Krasinski subplot) were inevitable in this scenario, but Meyers has played them well here with restrained pay-offs and the ending pulls off a pleasant plausibility. IT'S COMPLICATED is affectionately drawn and a better than average rom com - for appropriate audiences that is.