Meryl Streep has had a long and distinguished career in film. From playing a holocaust survivor in Sophie’s Choice to playing Julia Child in Julie and Julia, she has displayed a remarkable versatility that can be matched by few other actresses in Hollywood. She has played in great romances like Bridges of Madison County (opposite Clint Eastwood); and acted in powerful dramas like The Hours. It is quite odd, then, that such a famous and talented actor should have chosen a role in a film like It’s Complicated.
The film details the romantic relationships between Jane (Streep) and two men: Jake, her ex-husband (Alec Baldwin) and Adam (Steve Martin), the sensitive architect who is remodeling her kitchen. Now, at first glance this may seem to be the basis for a decent romantic comedy. Unfortunately there is no substance to the script, and the characters with the exception of Martin aren’t all that likeable or interesting.
A major flaw in the story is the fact that no one (including the children) has gotten over Jane’s divorce after ten years of separation, and it assumes that it really matters who a middle aged woman sleeps with after all her children have left the nest. Why after ten years should it matter if two aging divorcees get back together? It shouldn’t, but writer/ director Nancy Myers seems intent on milking a trivial situation for all the angst she can arouse.
Even Jane’s closest female friends make a big deal out of who she is sleeping with, and suggest that she can’t be truly happy unless she has a man in her life, which in an era of post-feminist sexual liberation seems rather backward. Whatever happened to the independent middle-aged woman who is capable of making these decisions for herself?
Alec Baldwin, who has spent the last 15 years or more playing grease-ball lawyers, murderous psychopaths and ruthless politicians, is definitely miscast as a romantic character. His persona and physical appearance have changed considerably since he played the role of the kind, considerate ghost husband in Beetlejuice (1986) and the menacingly virile assassin the The Juror (1996). In both of these movies Baldwin was slim and generally attractive, but the idea of Merrill Streep finding the modern Baldwin romantically attractive in this movie is hard to understand.
Streep plays a much more attractive character than Baldwin, but even she comes off as silly, neurotic and annoying at certain points in the film. This isn’t really her fault; she has so little to work with since the script is so ridiculous.
But even in this cinematic disaster there are a couple of bright spots. Steve Martin who has spent most of his career in comedy (All of Me, The Jerk, L.A. Story), and only recently chose to take on serious roles, is quite good as the new romantic interest in Jane’s life. His performance during the pot-smoking scene is one of the best parts of the movie. His character is also kind and sensible, a pleasant contrast to most of the other characters in the film.
John Krasinski, best known for his role as Jim Halpert in the American version of The Office, plays a wonderfully sympathetic role as Jane’s future son-in-law, Harley. Unfortunately, the actors who portrayed Jane’s children, while they may be good actors in other circumstances, have to deal with bland characterization and a weak plot.
To sum up, this is a disappointing movie filled with incredibly vexatious characters. I am very much afraid that Meryl Streep will look back on this project with a great deal of remorse. Please don’t bother watching this movie, rent Julie and Julia instead
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