Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's Easy

It isn't complicated to see why It's Complicated is going to be a big, fat hit this holiday season. For one thing, you have an audience-pleasing plotline: 10 years after their divorce, Jane and Jake (Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin) rekindle their flame, even though he has remarried. At the same time, Jane is pursued by Adam (Steve Martin), the architect she has hired to do work on her house. Can Jane and Jake keep their passion alive — and a secret from their kids? Suffice it to say, the film's title isn't a random choice.

More important than the plot, though, is the fact that the three actors are clearly having a blast on screen, and that makes for a very enjoyable movie. Streep hasn't been this natural and loose in quite some time (not even in Mamma Mia!), and Baldwin, well, he couldn't look happier. The two have a really great chemistry together. Martin makes a fine romantic adversary, but he mostly plays straight man to Baldwin and really only gets a chance to cut loose late in the film after his character has smoked some weed. In a supporting role, The Office's John Krasinski earns some laughs playing Jane's future son-in-law, and the only one to know her secret.

It's Complicated was written and directed by Nancy Meyers, who also wrote and directed Something's Gotta Give. She specializes in these sorts of slick, mainstream-oriented, women's wish-fulfillment movies. Jane, for example, isn't just played by Meryl Streep, she's a successful chef and restaurateur who lives in a picturesque house in Santa Barbara and has three seemingly perfect children. Oh, and even though she's in her late 50s, she's being pursued by a guy who looks like Alec Baldwin. Also worth noting: Jane may have her own issues, but it's the man in this story who's got the real problems.

Anyway, the film itself has its own problems as well. For example, the cast's easygoing vibe clearly translated into a too-leisurely paced film. Despite how much fun it can be, the film probably would have been better if it was tightened up a bit. Are there some predictable scenes and some pandering laughs? Yes. Has Streep been better elsewhere? Yes. But it's still a joy to watch her play someone "real" for a change — no accent, no gimmick, etc. — and to see her paired with someone as charming as Baldwin. It's Complicated may not be perfect, but it sure does go down easy. I'm giving it a B+.



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