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Blu-ray Review: It’s Complicated (2009)

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It often feels as though there is a sad and unfortunate tendency in Hollywood to leave comedies for younger actors or, at the very least, have middle-aged actors gear their comedies for a "family" crowd. It is therefore a nice experience when one gets to sit down and watch an adult-oriented comedy with adult actors, and it is even better when the comedy in question proves to be exceptionally funny and full of great performances. One need look no further than the 2009 film It's Complicated for proof of that.

Written and directed by Nancy Meyers (The Holiday), It's Complicated stars Meryl Streep as Jane, a chef/restaurant owner and mother of three grown children who has been divorced for a decade after 19 years of marriage. As with so many former couples who have children, Jane still regularly sees her ex-husband, Jake (Alec Baldwin). Unfortunately for Jane that means Universal Studiosshe also see her ex-husband's new wife, Agness (Lake Bell) and her son, Pedro (Emjay Anthony). Though Jane has dated people on and off over the course of the last decade, she has not settled down with anyone, but once an architect she hires, Adam (Steve Martin), enters her life, romance blossoms. Unfortunately for Jane, it doesn't only blossom with Adam, it blossoms with Jake as well.

That is where It's Complicated finds most of its humor and its heart. Meyers puts Jane, Adam, Jake, and everyone else into awkward situations, and while she's able to mine those situations for comedy, she never lets the audience forget that she is trying to depict real human beings. Jane, Adam, Jake, and to a lesser extent Jane and Jake's kids – Lauren (Caitlin Fitzgerald), Gabby (Zoe Kazan), and Luke (Hunter Parrish) – as well as Harley (John Krasinski), Lauren's fiancé, are actual three-dimensional people struggling to cope with life as it comes in the best way they possibly can.

The movie is almost wholly successful in this endeavor with Jane and Adam, both of whom have clearly suffered when their divorces came about and both of whose ex-spouses are cast (via the story of the divorces) in a negative light.

Universal StudiosIt's Complicated is far less successful, however, in its attempt to redeem Jake. We know that Jake cheated on Jane and while we are asked at points in the film to root for them to get back together, it always feels wrong. The audience is never able to escape the fact that Jane has stepped into the role Agness had a decade before when it was Jane that was married to Jake – Jane has become "the other woman." Meyers does give this question some thought in the film, but never, even for a moment, convincingly argues that Jane's actions are acceptable. It is a task the film makes harder on itself as it only ever casts Adam in a positive light and consequently one can't help but feel bad for him as they watch the Jane and Jake relationship unfold.

Worse than that however, is the film's disappointing third act. It's Complicated goes from having a situation that is truly complicated to just clearing everything up magically. To accomplish this, the characters end up discussing what their feelings were earlier in the film, but the feelings they talk about were never actually depicted and thus the ending feels hollow.

The Blu-ray release of It's Complicated is a rather sparse affair. There is a feature-length commentary from Meyers and others involved in the production and a making of featurette. With such funny actors doing such a good job with the comedy in the film, it is difficult to believe that there are no outtakes, no deleted scenes, no bloopers that could have been included in the release.

The technical aspects of the release are certainly better than the bonus features. Some shots do appear to have a softer focus than they ought, but the different colors featured in the Santa Barbara backdrop to the film look absolutely fantastic. Most of the shots have a great deal of detail (save the aforementioned occasional soft focus shots) as well. As this is a mostly lighthearted comedy, one without massive special effects, the 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is rather subdued. Overall, one will find little to complain about, but also little to truly wow them.

In the final summation, It's Complicated is a truly funny film which falters only when it attempts to wrap things up. It has actors who are certainly capable of the dramatic moments (and they handle them well early in the film), and seriousness is certainly what's required, but it just seems as though Meyers' script wrote the characters into a corner and her solution to get them out of it is less than satisfying. Even with that issue, the movie still proves enjoyable.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
  • Atlas

    It is interesting to finally see “dating” in this demographic. Usually people this old don’t lend themselves to romance, but it is a refreshing thing to see. It is hard not to enjoy the talent in this movie. Alec Baldwin, Meryl Streep and Steve Martin, written by Nancy Meyers.Very high quality.