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The West Wing
IT'S COMPLICATED, 2009
A romantic comedy in which two men (Baldwin and Martin) vie for the affection of the same woman (Streep).
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There are two categories of chick flick: the insightfully laid out comedy or drama trying to delve into the depths of what makes women what they are, or (and far more often) a cacophony of muddled emotional manipulation and fantasy disguised as a story (i.e. a Lifetime movie).
Nancy Myers' "It's Complicated" is solidly … in between.
Jane (Meryl Streep) is a successfully, if not entirely happily, divorced woman who raised her children and sent them off into the world and now must figure out what to do with the rest of her life. Alone. Her ex-husband Jake (Alec Baldwin) is a walking stereotype. A wealthy lawyer who drives a Porsche and is married to the fashionable 30 year old (Lake Bell) he left Jane for.
But they still have kids together, so they still have to see each other for birthdays and graduations and the like. After 10 years they've learned how to be divorced; show up, play nice for the kids, go home. It's simple, right?
By now, Myers ("What Women Want," "Something's Got to Give") is a pretty steady hand at this sort of thing. She likes her characters well rounded and able to avoid easy pitfalls, and that's good thing.
Alone in New York for her youngest' college graduation, and pining her upcoming empty nest, Jane suddenly finds herself as 'the other woman' when she spends the night with remarried-Jake. And even worse, she finds she wants to do it again. It is an undeniably good thing that someone is making films about mature relationships and the problems that even people who know what they're getting into face. It's too bad that there are so few of them only Meryl Streep gets them (which is not a knock against Streep) but it's something.
Streep is as good as ever, and Baldwin turns a character that could be sleazy and unctuous into someone you generally feel for. He's like a man who's coming to his senses 10 years to late. Baldwin and Streep have excellent chemistry together and it's easy to route for them.
But because this is Myers, you know what to expect from her. As even handed as she tries to be, there is always a hint (or more) of moralizing. In divorce, in Myers' world, there is always a good guy and a bad guy. And the bad guy cannot profit.
Jane, and architect Adam (Steve Martin) whom she might like to get to know better, are the ones who were cheated on by their partners. They are quite clearly the good guys; the ones who have heartache thrust upon them their only crime being their inability to dodge it.
Which wouldn't be a problem if Adam weren't so flat and lifeless. Even when he gets high as a kite he's still listless and uninteresting. His whole point seems to be that he's not Jake and that alone seems to be enough to make him worthwhile. But almost any scene with Jake is preferable. He's able to just sit around eating ice cream and talk about his problems with Jane and it's so much more real and entertaining than anything Jane and Adam can manage. Maybe that's why girls go for the 'bad boys' but if Myers is making a case against that, it seems she's trying to, she hasn't succeeded.
There are a few good chortle moments that are extremely well telegraphed, but not enough to make up for the general lack of conflict. How can there be conflict when you know what the characters are going to do? For all of its strengths, and there are few, there is little about "It's Complicated" that isn't extremely simplified. It's better than you usually get with this sort of thing, but only a little.