Saturday, January 30, 2010

It's Complicated

Last Saturday, the 23rd, I dragged J. to It’s Complicated. I didn’t force him, really; he seemed willing enough to go, although I’d venture to say that it wouldn’t have been his first choice of movies.

I didn’t want to see it because I’m a fan of Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and/or Steve Martin. Aside from Out of Africa and A Prairie Home Companion, I’ve seen little of Streep and even less of Baldwin or Martin. I wanted to see It’s Complicated primarily because of the question of how often does a movie come along in which people over 40 (in this case, 50) have explicit love and/or sex lives? It also sounded light hearted and fun, both of which I need to have imposed on me more often these days. I’ve become so tetchy in the past few years that I wonder what happened to the old me, the one was sometimes sad, rarely angry, and always more patient and empathetic.

Those who were disappointed by It’s Complicated possibly expected something . . . complicated. While the situation may have been, for the most part the characters treat it as a romp. Jane (Streep) even waylays her therapist to ask his permission for her to have an affair with her ex-husband, now married to the woman for whom he had left her. Her oily ex, lawyer Jake (Baldwin) doesn’t seem to know whether love is better the second time around or the grass is always greener, but for the moment he’s sure his younger, ovulating wife Agness (Lake Bell) isn’t making him as happy as Streep did and does. Enter Adam (Martin), the shy architect who shares Jane’s vision for the expansion of her kitchen and house and who, two years after his own divorce, still listens to self-help tapes. There’s genuine chemistry between Jane and Jake, and appropriately less between Jane and the less brash, more gun-shy Adam. In this tangle of relationships and feelings, only Jake’s wife drew the audience’s disdain.

It’s Complicated is too slight and lightly amusing to be sexy, but at least the middle-aged mother of three grownup children and her friends are shown to be every bit as interested in sex as any hot 25-year-old. Of course, Jane, Jake, and company are not middle America middle aged—they live in southern California, where Jane’s house overlooks the ocean and where, in addition to running her fabulously successful and creatively named The Bakery, Jane has time and money to consult the typical adjuncts of stereotypical southern California life, including the aforementioned therapist and a plastic surgeon. In whichever direction Jane’s love life heads, there’s little sense that her life ever been all that empty, let alone sad or tragic. It looked to me like money, success, perfect children, and a dream house in a dream location can go a great way toward making up for the loss of such a fickle creature as Jake.

The performances are good, as you might expect, but the character who stood out was Harley, Jane’s future son-in-law, played by John Krasinski. Through circumstances, he knows a lot more about Jane and Jake than he’d like, and every facial expression, gesture, and action conveys his discomfiture, sometimes broadly, sometimes more subtly. I found myself looking for his reaction in all his scenes.

It’s Complicated has nothing profound or insightful to say about relationships, other than that sometimes they work and feel good and sometimes they don’t. J. found the attitudes of Jane’s children puzzling, but I suspect that when one parent betrays the other, assuming all else is equal, the children feel betrayed, too. In It’s Complicated, their feelings are more cartoonish than painful.

I liked It’s Complicated. It’s not the proverbial laugh riot (although it has its moments), and it’s not going to make you see life, love, and marriage in a bright light, either, but it’s a sweet way to pass a cold Saturday evening in the middle of what by this time can seem like the endless midwestern winter.

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