I equate watching Nancy Meyers’ movies to taking a leisurely Sunday saunter through a beautiful park. Warm and delightful with plenty of laughs thrown in, her movies are always enjoyable to watch. But just because a filmmaker does one thing very well does not mean that they should do that and only that. With “It’s Complicated,” Meyers tries her hand at a different kind of movie. While most of her previous projects were relatively sweet, her latest piles on the raunch. Accompanying this vulgarity is a noticeable surge of laughter, although this comes at the cost of the charm her movies usually possess.
The title refers to the affairs of the characters and not at all to the story, which is actually quite simple. Jane (Meryl Streep) and Jake (Alec Baldwin) were married for many years, had three kids, and are now divorced. Jake moves on quickly, marrying the much younger Agnes. Jane, on the other hand, tries to “learn how to be divorced,” something she cannot seem to master even after 10 years. But after an inebriated evening leads to some ribald shenanigans with her ex-husband, she begins to wonder whether there might be some lingering feelings left for Jake. Jane tries to fight it and chastens herself severely for even thinking of having an affair with him, but the attraction becomes undeniable. However, this comes inopportunely as she is falling for her lovably dorky architect, Adam (Steve Martin). He reminds her of all the joy that a lively personality can bring, and Jane begins to recall all the reasons why her marriage with Jake failed. Sound too complicated? It really isn’t on screen, where the story unravels quite predictably and every plot twist can be called with relative ease.
Nancy Meyers hasn’t written anything that packs such howling laughter as “It’s Complicated,” and the comedic timing is a little off as a result. A second after she has us in stitches, the characters are already saying something else. Who knows how many great lines I missed while I was still cackling? This is one of the hardest I have ever laughed in a movie, and my throat felt the burn the next day. The humor isn’t derived from the dialogue much but rather from the outrageous situations that Meyers creates. It’s such a shame that she didn’t realize how gut-wrenchingly hilarious her movie really is.
In a Hollywood culture obsessed with looking younger, it is so refreshing to see three actors embrace their age and use it to enhance their performances. Meryl Streep, who truly can do no wrong, really explores her character and finds a very graceful poise within zany Jane. She remarkably blends the high-strung anxieties of being older with her free-wheeling youthful side, and it is the power struggle between these two forces to decide how Jane feels about love that makes Meryl’s vacillation that much more fascinating to watch unfold. Steve Martin uses his everyman appeal to delight, and it’s a shame he only does this in breaks between pitiful French accents. However, the real comedic spirit of the film comes from Alec Baldwin, who plays the overbearing fun-lover with such energy that he steals the screen every time he appears on it. Motivated by little other than carnal desires, Jake’s every move is fairly anticipated, but Baldwin’s zeal and verve prevent them ensure that they are always hysterical.
It’s unfortunate that the heart and soul of Meyers’ prior movies, the breezy fun, is sacrificed for some laughs. “It’s Complicated” will surely have you in stitches, and that by itself is enough to compensate for some of the absent originality. However, it doesn’t quite cover the ending, which doesn’t really satisfy enough to keep the pleasantries as you walk out of the theater. Meyers has proven herself to be quite deft with this raunchy rumpus, and it’s nice to see her wild side. But now that she has upped the ante on laughs, I challenge her to bring the warmth on the same level. She can do it, and that will be one heck of a movie. B+ /