For me, there have always been two sure things at the movies. If the movie stars Meryl Streep, I will like it. And if the movie stars Steve Martin, I’m in for good time. Well, that’s all very good news for It’s Complicated. It stars both. Too bad it took both to overcome the movie’s weaknesses.
Streep plays Jane, Martin plays Adam, and, rounding out the cast, the always reliable Alec Baldwin plays Jake in a comedic turn. As the simplicity of the character names suggests, it is a romantic triangle broadly played for all the angles as Jane has an affair with her now remarried ex-husband Jake and begins a relationship with Adam, her divorced architect.
Jake has remarried to a much younger woman and they have a child together. The kid is more than Jake bargained for when he captured his trophy bride and she has a really scary tattoo on her back and “high maintenance” written all over her forehead. His eyes are primed for straying, again, and back to his “old” wife Jane they go.
Jane, feeling like she hasn’t been “getting any” for far too long and encouraged by her circle of friends (women in movies so often have a circle of friends who sit around in a circle and talk dirty) is ready for an affair. It’s inevitable that Jake and Jane will come together and re-mingle. The complications are: What will their grown kids think? And how will she juggle this affair and Adam?
I found the movie entertaining and diverting, mostly due, as I already confessed, to the enormous appeal of Streep and Martin, not to mention the perfect pleasure of seeing them on screen together. I did have to overlook a lot of things that just didn’t ring true though.
For one, it’s the type of movie that takes you into a fertility clinic to show you a waiting room filled with sixty-year-old men seated beside twenty-year-old women reading Cosmopolitan. And, when Jake’s solo engagement with a plastic cup arrives, a pretty young woman winks at him and says, “Have fun.” I hate it when movies reach for such easy sitcom moments.
For another, Jane and Jake’s grown children are shocked by their tomfoolery, too shocked. After ten years, these twenty-something-year-olds still cower in bed together trembling over their parents’ divorce. My own parents divorced when I was a teenager and it was rough, but my sister and I certainly didn’t suck our thumbs under the covers for ten years. I wanted to whack the whiny brats.
So much of the movie is like those examples, lots of easy shots taken and lots of characters purely written out of convenience. It’s constructed top to bottom out of the sorts of characters – you know the sorts – that only exist in movies and would get slapped silly if they lived in the real world.
Where the movie really comes to life for the characters and audience alike is when Jane decides to smoke her first joint in over two decades. Then Adam joins her and we get to enjoy watching two very clever and versatile performers cut loose and act high. The movie suddenly leaves the world of sitcom inanity behind and becomes two characters having fun with that silly world – and with each other.
Those fifteen minutes or so were worth the price of admission alone and were enough to erase any reservations I had. Thanks Meryl and Steve. You are still two of my sure things.