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It's Complicated (2009)


It would be great to like this film more. There are pleasant settings and actors, ‘problems’ that don’t really amount to much of anything, and lashings of delicious food and architecture. There are three A-list actors participating in something almost more revolutionary in Hollywood than putting money into a project that didn’t originate with a decades-old comic book — an age-appropriate love triangle. There are even moments of bordering-on-touching romantic repartee. Sadly, none of these things add up to anything more than a generic, easygoing romantic comedy that has about as much lasting power as a thin snowfall on a sunny day.

But It’s Complicated is just not a film interested in working very hard. Its heroine, Jane (Meryl Streep, slumming with style) should be a figure of sympathy. By the time we run into her, she has been divorced for some ten years from her philandering husband Jake (Alec Baldwin), and is still single. The last of her children is graduating from college, leaving Jane with a too-big, too-empty house.

Meanwhile, Jake is getting ready to have a new child with his decades-younger wife — a lean-limbed Amazon whom Jane regards with narrowed eyes and quiet disdain. This doesn’t stop him from chatting Jane up at a bar, though. One drunken fling later, the old couple is reevaluating their relationship, Jake from the position of Baldwin in bloom (arms akimbo, hairy chest on full display, a big pile of vaguely clueless and self-satisfied virility) and Jane from one of nervous indecision. Let it never be said that writer/director Nancy Meyers has failed to utilize any and all easily grasped gender clichés.

For a while, Meyers cobbles together an amiable drawing-room comedy around these randy almost-seniors who, having had years apart to work on their respective careers, now finally have the time to completely turn themselves over to love. Baldwin and Streep’s nearly preternatural ease together doesn’t hurt matters at all. However, the addition of a second love interest for Jane in the form of Adam (Steve Martin, mostly anesthetized), a divorced, milquetoast architect, slows things down more than necessary, as does practically any moment involving Jake and Jane’s cloying, clueless children (all twenty-something going on preteen). Meyers even assembles an excellent chorus of friends for Jane to kvetch to over wine and gourmet nibbles, but pretty much ditches them once the men arrive on the scene.

It’s Complicated comes alive every now and again, mostly in the warm, rambunctious scenes between Jake and Jane that constitute much of the film’s middle portion. Too often, though, it revels in the kind of slathered-on, sunshine- and money-burnished conspicuous consumption of which we’ve already seen far too much. The dwellings are straight out of Interior Design and the careers of the three leads all appropriately white collar (lawyer, architect, chef-proprietor). But no amount of yuppie wish fulfillment or desperately up-to-date references (texting! The Hills!) would have mattered if Meyers had just had a little more faith in her story and performers. As it stands, her overlong, overstuffed romantic comedy feels all too lazily formulaic to have much life left by the time it grinds to a close.