Back in December, my friend Liz and I went to an advanced screening of the movie, It’s Complicated, starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. Set in beautiful Santa Barbara, California, the movie explores a love triangle between three middle-aged adults, two of whom were married and are now divorced.
Meryl Streep plays a divorce named Jane, whose children have all grown up and left the nest and are at different stages in young adulthood: going to college, graduating from college and getting married. Jane is now an empty-nester and although she is a chef with a successful pastry-restaurant business, decides to occupy her time with a home remodel that will include the dream kitchen she has longed for. The crowded New York City theater moaned in amusement when Jane, declares that her large California kitchen complete with large island and stunning gourmet appliances is small. Of course by these standards, our New York City shoe box kitchens would be considered minuscule.
Through Jane’s renovation plans, she meets Adam, a sweet and gentle architect and recent divorce with insecurity issues, played by Steve Martin. They share a common love of pastries and a common pain of being left by their former spouses. Adam moves slow through every romantic maneuver which leaves Jane open to the advances of her ex-husband, Jake, played by Alec Baldwin.
Alec Baldwin is hilarious as he plays a rather sleazy, obnoxious, fun and spontaneous character. Where men who behave like Jake would be considered scum in real life, Baldwin plays him in such a manner that endears us to him. We feel sympathy for him and the poor choices he’s made when his active five-year old son bullies him and his much younger wife bosses him around and demands that he makes visits to a fertility clinic so that they can conceive a second child. Jake is on the hunt for any form of escape and the audience cannot blame him.
Bored at home and realizing too late Jane’s great qualities, Jake shamelessly flirts with Jane at every on any occasion that he and Jane are in the same room. When the family makes plans to meet in New York City for the son’s graduation and it is there that Jane gives into Jake’s demands and begins an affair with him. It continues when they return home to California. And while it is exciting and thrilling, it also gets in the way of her relationship with new love interest, Adam. It is also a challenge to the children when they discover their parent’s affair; they react like young confused children who are still disturbed by their parent’s divorce. In the end, Jane is forced to reckon with life and ultimately decide if her heart belongs in the past or in the future. And ultimately there is a happy ending for all of the main characters.
Modern romantic comedies aren’t usually my thing, but every once in a while I discover a gem or two in the present-day generic movie rubble. This film was one of those films with me, with the right combination of fun, passion, sweet and endearing and laugh-out-loud moments. But it also made me realize that I had the misconception that romantic complications end after middle age. Instead, I realize now that complications in life remain, they simply change and develop as we grow older. In my post-college era, I guess I thought all I would have to battle would be the effects of aging. (Sigh. So you mean that doing everything I can to remain youthful in appearance and physical condition will not be the crux of my middle age adulthood?! Yikes!)
The performances in this movie were great and the stars of the film, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin and Meryl Streep, did not disappoint. Steve Martin shows his theatrical diversity by playing the “straight man” here. Martin is known for his overtly comical performances but here he leaves the one liners to Baldwin and still shines. And of course, Baldwin was a riot adding that extra spark to the film. In fact, all three really played off of each other well and had great chemistry.
Still, there is not enough I could say about Meryl Streep. With every film I continue to be amazed by the performances of Ms. Streep. She took a relatively simple story and uncomplicated character and really transformed into this person, immediately engaging the viewer and suspending the element of disbelief as she disappeared into the character. I realized for the first time it seems that Ms. Streep uses every element of her body (face, language, body movement etc.) to really embrace the characters that she portrays. Ms. Streep is up for another Academy Award this year for another movie, but deserves an award for her turn here as well.
It’s Complicated now ranks high on my favorite romantic comedies list and I see a place for it in my video library. If you haven’t seen it for yourself, I definitely recommend it.
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Director: Nancy Meyers
Writers: Nancy Meyers
Starring: Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, and Lake Bell