Tagline: First comes marriage. Then comes divorce. And then…
Synopsis: A divorced couple reunite while attending their son’s college graduation and sparks ignite and the only thing that stands in their way is his new marriage and her interest the architect remodeling her home.
Meat & Potatoes: Written and directed by Nancy Meyers – Previously known for The Parent Trap (1998), What Women Want (2000), and Something’s Gotta Give (2003) It’s complicated is an American romantic comedy starring Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin. I missed this one in the theater but I had it in the back of my mind. I don’t know of two more talented actors in the business today and throw in a small part for Steve Martin and you have the makings for a good yarn. I purposefully avoided the critics on this one – both after it was released in theaters and after screening it at home. After scanning reviews near and far in preparation for my own thoughts here, I found once again that expectations seem to be the downfall of so many films these days. “I was expecting so much more,” writes one reviewer, stretching as much as possible to draw a correlation between some past film to measure his definition of romantic comedy. Another critic writes, “I wanted more places to laugh.” Maybe she should have had a glass of wine before? Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin, not to mention Steve Martin as the busy architect-love interest, come across like people you know and you laugh when they laugh and cry when they cry because its familiar territory. With their divorce behind them, Jake and Jane have constructed an amicable, decent relationship. Of course there is tension between them that might reveal in a small way a longing for what they had, a suggestion of unspoken feelings dangerously close to the surface; he has since married, at the start of the film and she has found enjoyment in her career and celibacy. I contend that this IS the subtle nuances other reviewers missed and I think, in part it is because it is easy to get star struck and forget about the real-world, human connections made between these characters in the safety of a dark movie theater. We want them to get together for all the wrong reasons, just as they do. Working through their differences they manage to share something, a spark from their past that signals a change ahead for better or for worse – sound familiar? The road of marriage is not always paved and the road of divorce can often circle back an intersect that road. Ultimately we get what we thought all along but is that really so bad?
Meryl Streep is Jane, smart and together, a business woman with her head on her shoulders and in no way desperate to jump into a relationship. Maybe there were a few short-term encounters since her divorce but she is definitely over her ex-husband – or is she? That’s where writer-director Nancy Meyers script is happiest – between the subtle and the familiar and that is what I think casual critics and mis-informed reviewers missed. The world of It’s Complicated is a gentle, pervasive one that blends effortless with our own experiences and relationships. Jane is successful and has three beautiful children in her life – why would she want to make things complicated? Because that is what we do and Meryl shines as a busy bee with a past that is ready to return to her whether she is ready to return to it or not. Alec Baldwin reminds me he is comfortable in his skin as Jake, former husband and remarried, his devil-may-care attitude covers for genuine feelings rekindled by their chance encounter at their sons graduation. I want to root for him to be happy, to escape his new surface marriage and life; don’t we all want to be happy? It would be selfish to wish Jake harm, to gloat when all hope of him resurrecting his relationship with Jane seems lost in the second act even if secretly deep down in ourselves we want him to feel the kind of pain we know. Jake is an everyman just as Jane is an everywoman – we see them around us and in us and sometimes, for a little while we can enter their world through cinema and count ourselves as one.
Steve Martin is here too, Adam the architect, though his character is never fully realized and often reduced to a plot device. He shows up, a wedge to Jake’s enthusiastic romp into Jane’s life, but we’re never allowed enough time to know him and subsequently care whether he gets the girl or not. I’m not advocating that he should have been given more screen time or development, only that his talent seemed sadly wasted.
The Closer: It’s Complicated is a romantic comedy about real people, people you may know and therefore reaches us in ways not always believable or available. Streep and Baldwin play off one another as though they are a divorced couple and that’s precisely where the fun lives. Watch this one and enjoy it for its subtleties, for a return to the big screen of a talented pair, and for ever having thought the wrong road was a better choice than the opposite.