Running time 118 minutes
Written and directed by Nancy Meyers
Starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, Lake Bell
Meryl Streep is on a roll. After winning so many critics awards for channeling Julia Child in the amazing Julie & Julia, a performance that’s certain to make a big noise on Oscar night, she now returns in time to usher out the movie misery of 2009 with It’s Complicated, a silly but mostly delectable holiday confection guaranteed to put a smile on your face and keep it there.
It makes a lot of difference when superbly gifted people like writer-director Nancy Meyers (O.K., she wrote a few stinkers like the two execrable Father of the Bride remakes, but I’ll forgive her almost anything after Baby Boom, one of my favorite movies of all time) and wise, assured actors such as Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin try on broad farce for size, instead of the usual hacks. The result may be silly, but it’s a boost to the libidos of neglected seniors and a real tonic for the younger crowd. Beat the Hollywood bushes for hacks, and out come Adam Sandler, Jack Black, Jason Schwartzman, Wes Anderson, the Farrelly brothers and a flotilla of clueless jerks too numerous to mention. They should all be forced to see It’s Complicated and learn something. Like a deluxe-size banana split piled with pecans and whipped cream and hammered with hot fudge, this movie, about how much fun sex can be after menopause, is an indulgence that tastes great going down, but oh the guilt you feel later (not to mention around the waistline). You’ll like it better if you throw caution to the wind and dip right in with an oversize spoon.
I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed such an attractive middle-aged trio. Ms. Streep is Jane Adler, a rich, successful and well-preserved businesswoman and mother of three grown children who owns a restaurant-bakery and lives a privileged life in a lavish Spanish hacienda in Santa Barbara, California. Mr. Baldwin is ex-husband Jake, the rich, successful and not-so-well-preserved lawyer she divorced 10 years ago, after a 20-year marriage punctuated by endless cheating. Now remarried to a sexy bimbo with tattoos and a neurotic child, Jake is rotund, out of shape, exhausted and stressed out from all the Viagra, Lipitor, Flomax and late-night ovulations of a young wife who wants another baby. When the whole family flies to New York for the son’s college graduation, Jane and Jake accidentally meet in the hotel bar, have dinner, drink too much and, like the song says, get “that old feeling.” Jake falls for Jane all over again, wondering why he was stupid enough to let her go in the first place, and Jane recovers from her guilt long enough to rediscover the joy of orgasm while keeping the whole affair a secret from her three children. Enter a rich, successful, well-preserved architect named Adam (Steve Martin), who has been divorced only two years himself and is now designing an extension for Jane’s new house that looks like a spread in Architectural Digest. Suddenly a woman facing loneliness in an empty house after her kids leave home is having two affairs at the same time. With Jake, she’s sleeping with a married man who used to be her husband, which makes her the other woman. With Adam, she’s smoking pot and baking chocolate croissants from scratch at midnight. The out-of-control immorality of it all turns them all on. Jake has a Cheshire cat grin to match his gut. Jane is thinking about a face-lift. Bottom line: They all come wildly back to life, mad with hormone implosion. Between hot flashes, the guys turn into jealous lovers and peeping Toms, and Jane tends a garden so vast it could feed the population of South America and so beautiful that it seems to be weeded by elves. It’s complicated. It’s also exaggerated, and not always believable. It’s also sweet, commercial and laugh-out-loud funny.
Comedy is not Meryl Streep’s primary comfort zone, but she’s warm and winning and looser than ever. She ditches the mannerisms and looks so relaxed that she must have been transformed by her turn as Julia Child; she spends most of her time in this movie baking perfect double chocolate layer cakes as aphrodisiacs. It’s been years since Alec Baldwin showed this much flexibility and comic charm. Next to them, the movie’s younger generation seems bland and dull by comparison. It’s Complicated is a hard movie to defend. It’s too long. It falls apart toward the end, when the mature adults turn giddier than their children. There are three endings. It’s been labeled a chick flick, which is not entirely off-base. But it’s the only movie I’ve seen this year about oversexed grown-ups instead of oversexed teenagers, and it also proves it’s worth the experiment to see if there’s life after 60.
In a horrible year of vampires, aliens, abused children and raped and mutilated women, what a joy to just sit back and be entertained without being insulted or losing any I.Q. points. For a movie with nothing on its mind but fun, It’s Complicated is headed for box office gold.