From the Editor

Movie Review Archive

Thank you for checking out my movie review archive. I'm in the process of transitioning to something else, so I will no longer post new reviews to this blog. In the meantime, I will keep these reviews archived; these are from the fall of 2008 to April 2011. Please watch this blog for more info and keep in touch (you can still find me on Facebook and Twitter). Here's to more great movies!

Wes Singleton

North Texas Film Critics Association

Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's Complicated - B

Rated R for some drug content and sexuality, 118 minutes

Fun, messy "It's Complicated" made better by Streep

You can't get around what “It's Complicated” really is: a chick flick for older women. The new Nancy Meyers comedy, about middle-aged divorced folks hooking up behind their kids' back trying to rekindle some of the romance they had before, is your perfect movie if you enjoy seeing older people rolling around in the sack. It's not as near as bad as it sounds and actually “It's Complicated” is more lively and enjoyable than you might think, in spite of the fact it’s a predictable, slightly dumb comedy.

Jane Adler (Meryl Streep) is a successful bakery owner and divorcee, from lawyer Jake (Alec Baldwin). They have three grown kids, Lauren (Caitlin Fitzgerald), Gabby (Zoe Kazan), recent college grad Luke (Hunter Parrish), along with the fourth child, Lauren's fiancee Harley (John Krasinski). After a few drinks together, Jane and Jake, in drunken stupor, hook up the weekend of their son's college graduation, and begin a secretive fling, even though Jane becomes smitten with her divorced architect Adam (Steve Martin) and the fact that Jake is now married to Agnes (Lake Bell), the younger woman who broke up their marriage in the first place.

In spite of a contrived story, “It’s Complicated” works much like a relationship: messy but enjoyable. Director and writer Meyers completes her movie trifecta of making middle-age (some younger folks might even call that – gulp – old) seem appealing, first with Mel Gibson with “What Women Want,” then Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson with “Somebody's Gotta Give” and now with Streep and “It's Complicated,” which could be viewed as very mild middle-aged porn and is the weakest but most enjoyable of these; what it lacks in depth is made up for in fun and a game cast.

This in large part due to the energetic Streep, who carries the film on her back as she continues her career revitalization over the last couple of years as she herself grows older. She throws caution to the wind, lets her hair down (literally) and enjoys herself doing things women her age shouldn't. I wouldn’t dare tell her that she's probably a smidgen too old for this role, but then she can do anything (over the last year she’s sung ABBA songs, played a nun and Julia Childs) and she’s a relaxed, self-effacing comedienne that audiences can easily connect with.

As for Meyers, “It's Complicated” proves that she’s a better director than she is a writer, mainly due to her cordial style to let the actors just be themselves, not to mention the fact her unfocused, unrevealing script doesn't shed new light on relationships and has little place to go. Also, her script is a little sexist, as the men don’t come across as well as Streep does: Baldwin's aggressive charm, which serves him well on the TV show “30 Rock,” seems a little creepy here, while Martin's character is the opposite: out of place and too bland; when Streep and Baldwin are together on screen, he all but disappears.

Streep and Martin smoke pot. Baldwin gets naked. They sneak around, they get it on, and more than once. Some of it’s admittedly funny (the first unexpected drunken encounter is best, less so after that) but it grows - no pun intended - old after awhile. It runs its course after 90 minutes and Meyers has difficulty letting go of her quick fling of a movie, predictably extending it to nearly two hours, making it more complicated than necessary.

Meyers could’ve made “It’s Complicated” far simpler: just let them sleep together, work through their horniness and be done with it. Instead, her blatant contrivances pad the film, including the three friends (Rita Wilson, Mary Kay Place and Alexandra Wentworth) who hold no value to the movie except for Streep to explain the plot (which is evident since they completely disappear from the film's second half), not to mention a future son-in-law inexplicably named Harley, played with gumption by “The Office’s” Krasinski, whose smarter than the three dense kids, who don’t catch on what’s going on.

Much like a quick fling, it goes on too long and is often messy and unmemorable, but “It's Complicated” will give you a needed Meryl fix, who’s good as always and will likely make this a big hit with the older set.