DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: It's Complicated

Saturday, 9 January 2010

It's Complicated

It's Complicated (2009) dir. Nancy Meyers
Starring: Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, John Krasinski, Mary Kay Place, Rita Wilson, Alexandra Wentworth and Lake Bell


By Greg Klymkiw

After a thirty year career of delivering watchable, innocuous "chick-flick" yuck-fests as a screenwriter ("Private Benjamin", "Baby Boom"), producer ("Father of the Bride I and II") and director ("What Women Want", "Something's Gotta Give"), Nancy Meyers has finally broken through the wall of acceptable mediocrity and delivered a sparkling comedy that will appeal to an extremely wide audience. With a deftly written, sophisticated screenplay, a cast at the very peak of their considerable gifts and confident, sure-handed direction, Meyers delivers a movie that manages to be both mature AND silly (in all the right ways).

One of the joys inherent in this picture is that, at its centre, are a trio of characters well into middle age and endowed with all the familiar blessings and curses that come with the territory of life experience. Add to this frothy confection some excellent twenty and thirty-something character support and you've got a movie that aims for the middlebrow, but does so with panache and intelligence.

It's an extremely simple tale of romance about a divorced couple (the paunchy, but still devilishly handsome Alec Baldwin and the utterly radiant, downright transcendent and still gorgeous Meryl Streep) that are brought together during a gathering that includes their grown children and Baldwin's cradle-robbed second wife (Lake Bell playing the very definition of a yummy mummy). Streep's character has finally come to a place where she's almost able to completely let go of the hurt Baldwin caused her and the feelings of inadequacy she's harboured for too long - she's comfortable with her career and her life and is even on the verge of entering into a romance with a sweet, successful, mildly hang-dog, but charming divorced architect (Steve Martin in a performance that's easily his best in many a long year). The last thing she needs is what happens, but happen it does.

One evening, with a few drinks too many under their belts and a rekindling of the spark that would have brought and kept them together at a previous juncture in their lives, the unthinkable happens - they wind up in the sack together and it's glorious. Baldwin now finds himself more attracted to his ex-wife than he ever thought possible and the divorced couple become embroiled in a hot, heavy and definitely secret love affair.

Where IT becomes especially COMPLICATED is that:

(a) Baldwin and Streep's son-in-law (an oh-so funny and fresh-faced John Krasinski) cottons on to their dalliance and reacts with a combination of bemusement and horror;

(b.) Baldwin and Streep's children long for their divorced parents to be together again like the old days and;

(c.) Steve Martin is falling big-time for Streep and as he suffered an especially traumatic divorce, she's promised not to break his heart.

Oy Vey! Where can this possibly go?

Well, the picture does move in a few predictable directions, but it also provides a few surprises along the way. Most of all, though, it provides a constantly ebullient tone, lots of pleasant laughs and happily, a handful of huge knee-slappers. In fact, one of the hoariest gags imaginable - one that involves the ingestion of some especially potent pot during a party where such behaviour is completely out of place - still managed to have me (and most of the audience I saw it with) soiling our respective knickers from laughing so hard.

And damn, in its exploration of love and family, the picture manages to even hit a few welcome notes of poignance.

"It's Complicated" is pure fluff, but of the highest order. And while this probably makes the movie sound a bit better than it is, I was happily carried away by it and felt like I was watching a contemporary Hollywood hybrid of an Alan Ayckbourn bedroom farce with "The Awful Truth", Leo McCarey's legendary romantic comedy about - yes, a divorced couple rekindling that old spark.

Of course, what makes the movie even more entertaining is watching pros like Streep, Baldwin and Martin strut their stuff. As well, it helps that we're seeing the story play out with actors the camera totally loves. If any of us had to imagine our own parents engaging in some of the bedroom activities that Streep and Baldwin indulge themselves in, we'd probably want to puke. A story like this DEMANDS attractive leads! (I'd do any of them, myself!)

As a matter of fact, I can, for example, imagine what sort of wretch-inducing picture it would be if it had been made in the UK - it would be directed by Mike Leigh and star the rather unappetizing menage a trois of Brenda Blethyn, Pete Postlethwaite and Brendan Gleeson.

Wait a minute!

Wait, just a goldurn' minute!

I'd pay to see that!

Perhaps a remake is in order.

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