Friday, December 25, 2009

Review: "It's Complicated"

"It's Complicated" covers familiar ground, but this comedy about autumn romance is charming enough to entertain despite its slightly stale themes.

Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin are a tremendous cinematic pairing as a long-divorced couple who unexpectedly re-stoke the dying embers. Since he's now married to the woman he left her for, she effectively switches places as the Other Woman.

To add to the mix, Steve Martin is cast very much against type as a straitlaced architect with the hots for Streep.

Writer/director Nancy Meyers has trod down the path of oldster canoodling before, most notably with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton in "Something's Gotta Give." The idea of a woman nearing 60 having to fend off multiple suitors clearly appeals to the filmmaker, and probably a lot of audience members.

Streep plays Jane, who's sending her youngest daughter off to college, watching the middle son graduate, and helping her oldest daughter prepare for her wedding. She and Jake (Baldwin) were married for 20 years, divorced for 10, and after years of consternation have reached a comfortable sort of detente.

But by the way Jane glares at Jake's much-younger wife (Lake Bell), it's clear she has unresolved issues about the relationship ending -- not to mention that she's in a pretty long dry spell herself romantically.

A successful baker, Jane is looking to add an addition onto her house, and thus meets Adam (Martin). The architect is shy, a bit awkward, and just getting over his own divorce. It's kind of a flat role as written, and Martin doesn't really fill out the part satisfactorily.

Whenever the film wanders off into Adam territory, it loses steam. The Jane/Jake dynamic is what keeps things moving.

The scenes of them together are playful and sexy -- the twinkle in Baldwin's eyes speaks of a lifelong rogue who decides the homefires were the warmest. Streep's character is confused and reticent at first, but eventually decides she deserves a romp.

Jake points out that, by virtue of their age, they have simply aged out of all the problems they had while they were married. He's no longer obsessed with work, and she doesn't have to put family before herself anymore.

"We both grew into the people we wanted each other to be," he says.

There's several laugh-out-loud moments, including one where Streep tells a doctor something that you never expected to hear out of Hollywood's Oscar queen. Along with her fleshy, exuberant turn as Julia Child earlier this year, Streep is Tinseltown's latest-blooming sexpot.

Baldwin bares himself, too, though in a more literal sense. All I will say is it's the funniest use of a webcam since the first "American Pie."

"It's Complicated" isn't terribly original, but it's a generous and entertaining look at life and love while rounding third base.

3 stars

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