Mar 12, 2015

Review: It's Complicated (2009)

Nancy Meyers seems to specialize in these middle-aged romantic comedy movies. Her first directorial job was a remake of The Parent Trap which even though has a young Lindsay Lohan, it's all about a pair of twins getting their mother and father back together again. After that, it's been nothing but smooth sailing in the sea of middle-aged romance ever since with only The Holiday straying just slightly from that course.

There's definitely nothing wrong with targeting this demographic. I mean not everyone is interested in superheroes and Hollywood blockbusters after all. My concern is that despite having good casts in all her movies, Meyers seems to bloat things out of proportion. From What Women Want to The Holiday, that's probably my biggest complaint for all her movies. Does Nancy Meyers manage to avoid that problem with It's Complicated?

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Genre: comedy, romance
Directed by: Nancy Meyers
Produced by: Nancy Meyers, Scott Rudin, Suzanne McNeill Farwell, etc.
Written by: Nancy Meyers
Music by: Heitor Pereira, Hans Zimmer
Running time: 120 minutes
Production company: Universal Pictures, Relativity Media, Waverly Films, etc.
Distributed by: Universal Pictures, Universal Pictures International, Toho-Towa, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $85,000,000
Box office: $219,103,655 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, Lake Bell, Hunter Parrish, Zoe Kazan, Caitlin Fitzgerald, John Krasinski, Mary Kay Place, Rita Wilson, Alexandra Wentworth, James Patrick Stuart

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Synopsis


Jane (Meryl Streep) and Jake Adler (Alex Baldwin) have have three children between them but have been divorced for ten years. Jane has successfully remade herself, now owning a successful bakery and has plans to expand her home. Jake on the other hand is married to a much younger woman (Lake Bell) who has her own five-year old son and plans on having another child with him. The night before attending the graduation of their youngest son Luke (Hunter Parrish), Jane and Jake have an affair that leads to all sorts of complications.

Review


It's Complicated comes off as a middle-aged romantic comedy as advertised along with a side of  "getting old" drama as well. What's interesting is that Nancy Meyers has definitely made this a lot more of a chick flick than I expected. There's a little bit of foodie-ism going on too with Jane being a professional baker and all, but it's more of a passing interest than anything else. We're definitely not talking Julie & Julia type food porn here.

With all of this going on, I couldn't help but feel that Nancy Meyers has once again tried to do a little too much. The bread that she's baked is humungous and she doesn't have anywhere near the amount of butter that's required. Even most of the jokes feel like they're trying to be broadly funny at the expense of more measured and targeted humour. What springs to my mind first is an embarrassing high on pot scene where the characters of Meryl Streep and Steve Martin are unable to contain their laughter during a party. What ends up happening is that those 120 minutes of runtime with multiple montages begin to feel especially labourious at around the 90-minute mark.

That's not to say that there aren't at least some satisfactory moments. There are some nice Adler family moments such as Jane, Jake and all their kids together at one dinner table enjoying each other's company, but those moments seem rarer than they could've been. The same goes for the question of getting older and feeling less relevant. This is especially seen in the opening fifteen minutes or so with Jane having her last child move from home and feeling disconnected. This is certainly something that could've been addressed more, but sadly it isn't.

Meryl Streep is predictably good, but only has one or two scenes where she truly shines like I know she can. Nancy Meyer's script just never calls for her to do so. Streep also seems particularly uncomfortable during the most "chick flicky" of scenes where she has her girlfriends over to gossip and eat pastries with her. I know Streep is better than this kind of stuff and so does she.

I suppose Alec Baldwin deserves some props for being willing to embarrass himself multiple times in a series of shirtless scenes, but I couldn't help but get annoyed by his constant slow and low-voiced drawling. His character lacks likeability which hampers the fact that Jane has to choose between Jake and her architect Adam Schaffer. Who on earth could ever accept being with someone who eats with the most audible lip smacking this side of the universe anyway?

The character that Steve Martin plays on the other hand is quiet, unassuming and he eats his food politely. Despite that, Martin makes Adam Schaffer the architect amusing without even trying which is a big plus. Martin looks a little off though. I'm not sure if this is all because of aging or maybe a bit of plastic surgery, but at least the same old Steve Martin grin is alive and well. I still love the guy to death.

It's Complicated stretches itself too thin by trying to do too much making it yet another Nancy Meyers bloatfest. While Streep, Baldwin and Martin all have their moments, they never really get the chance to stretch their legs despite having all the runtime in the world to do so. Immaculate homes, food preparation montages and awkward attempts at embarrassing situations do not make a great movie. While I'm sure that It's Complicated will entertain some, it feels like empty calories to me.

Rating


5.5/10