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Entries in It's Complicated [2009] (1)

Sunday
Jan172010

It's Complicated 2009)

Revenge of the Rom-com

Five months ago, Meryl Streep starred as Julia Child in Julie & Julia. I found the film to be so deplorable and soulless that my only way to cope with its awfulness was to start a movie blog. Had you told me then that less than half a year later I’d be writing a rave review about another Streep picture in which she plays a frenetic chef, I would’ve shit my pants and called you a liar. But here we are, and here’s my rave review.

I’ll lead off by stating publicly that whoever cut the trailer for Nancy Meyers’ It’s Complicated should be tried for crimes against the movie-going public and then dragged through the streets while on fire. The previews are exactly what kept me away from this picture for more than a month, and I’m just glad I got roped into this as an alternative to bowling (or Jackie Chan’s The Spy Next Door). I thought surely that I’d seen the entire picture in the course of two minutes: Streep and Alec Baldwin are divorced but have an affair; Streep giggles with her girlfriends about how men are dumb and silly; then Steve Martin shows up to complete the cliche love triangle; all of course played out against a Whimsical Romantic Comedy Soundtrack and gags about getting high and having Internet sex. While it’s true that all of those elements are part of the movie, this is in no way a simple pratfalls-and-revelations rom-com; it’s more serious than that; more (ugh) complicated.

Meryl Streep’s, Alec Baldwin’s and Steve Martin’s characters are the closest this genre has come to well-rounded, believable people in at least a decade. Streep and Baldwin play Jane and Jake Adler, a wealthy divorced couple; Jake has moved on, marrying his decades-too-young mistress and becoming a surrogate father to her child; Jane is single and still kind of shell-shocked from the decade-old divorce, and having a really hard time seeing the last of her three children leave the nest. At their son’s graduation, the exes run into each other at a bar, drink way too much, and fall into bed. This sets up a reluctant (on Jane’s part) affair that also comes to involve Adam (Martin), the architect who’s overseeing an extension on her home. This messy situation lends itself to comedy, but the film’s bright, beating heart is the honesty with which the principle actors imbue their characters. Watching It’s Complicated, both my mind and heart were engaged, and not once did I feel bored or insulted by lazy writing.

That’s due in large part to Meyer’s script (she wrote and directed the film). It’s such a personal story that I wouldn’t be surprised to learn it was inspired by true events. There is such a fine level of detail in the dialogue and the situations that reveal truths not only about how love blossoms, dies, and occasionally blooms again, but about growing old and prizing family above all else. Just about everything in It’s Complicated works; I could’ve done without the scene in which Jake spies on Adam, or the entire Jake-goes-to-the-fertility-clinic sub-plot—those reeked of the desperate, sitcom-level nonsense that can be found in tripe like 27 Dresses, The Ugly Truth and He’s Just Not That Into You. But over all, this movie deals with the kinds of issues that real people care about; Nancy Meyers realizes that there’s enough comedy and drama in everyday life that there’s no need to turn her characters into cartoons in order to elicit laughs and empathy.

I’d like to take a moment to praise Steve Martin’s wonderful performance as Adam. While a lot of attention has been given to Streep (who is great) and Baldwin (who plays Jake as Jack Donaghy with a touch less flash), Steve Martin is the hero of the movie. I haven’t truly enjoyed one of his performances since Bowfinger, as both he and Eddie Murphy have toiled in lame family-friendly garbage for most of the last decade. But here, he is genuinely funny and very touching. The scene where Adam and Jane make chocolate croissants on their first date—all two minutes of it—is a better, more romantic film about food than all of Julie & Julia.

If you haven’t seen It’s Complicated yet, you owe it to yourself to check it out right away. I smiled throughout most of the movie—even during some of the dramatic scenes, just because the active was so damned good—and came away feeling like I’d just watched a movie for grown-ups. It’s the exact opposite of what I expected, thanks to those awful, unforgivable commercials.

Note: It’s Complicated is rated “R” due to “Some Drug Content and Sexuality”. This is utter bullshit, folks, and it’s an outrage. The only “sexuality” that might elicit this rating is an eighth-of-a-second shot of Alec Baldwin’s (body double’s) ass. And the “drug content” refers to the pot-smoking scene—only because the people doing it (who were adults, mind you) suffered no consequences for getting high. As I understand it, had they been arrested or driven into a tree because of that crazy, evil reefer, the film may have garnered a PG-13 rating.

I’m going to go on the record here and state that anyone who is inspired to smoke weed because they saw Meryl Streep and Steve Martin share a joint in a movie is a Grade-A imbecile who would be better off playing in traffic rather than fucking up the delicate Bell Curve of our American ratings system.