Wednesday, 6 January 2010


Now Showing
Universal Pictures

Beginning with The Devil Wears Prada (2006), Meryl Streep, always a critical darling, has been enjoying a second coming of sorts. At an age when most actresses have been assigned to supporting roles at best, Streep has become a box office gold mine: Mamma Mia! was one of the highest grossing films of 2008, and Julie & Julia took more than $100 million at the US box office despite an '09 summer dominated by male-oriented franchises.

Releasing in the Christmas holiday season will no doubt guarantee It's Complicated a healthy box office return, too. It also provides the female demographic something to occupy their time while the boys head to Avatar (again) and Sherlock Holmes. But I suggest the enjoyment level for the ladies' investment of time and money will not be as high as for either MM! or J&J.

But then I could be wrong - or just the wrong audience for this film. Writer-director Nancy Meyers' previous films – What Women Want, Something's Gotta Give, The Holiday – seem to have connected with (female) audiences, and I'd suggest more for their fantasy and wish fulfillment elements more than anything.

Just as Something's Gotta Give, in which Diane Keaton showed post-middle age could be sexy, It's Complicated similarly concerns itself with a woman (Streep) of 'a certain age' discovering a new lease on life. Divorced 10 years and with her youngest of three children off to college, Jane Adler (Streep) has a thriving bakery business and a kitchen extension to occupy her time. But on a trip to New York for her son's graduation, she ends up in bed with her ex-husband, Jake, played by a grinning Alec Baldwin, no doubt because gets the best lines.

This development appalls Jane at first but soon becomes a source of amusement and pride, for both her and her girlfriends, especially as the affair continues and Jane becomes 'the other woman'; Jake having remarried a much younger bride (Lake Bell) who is painted in very broad strokes as an ovulating shrew. So much for sisterhood, Meyers.

At the same time, a potential suitor also arrives on the scene. Adam (Steve Martin) is the architect designing Jane's new kitchen and he's obviously smitten with his client. Sadly for him, Jane is distracted by her ex. And sadly for Martin, Meyers has given him very little to do. The only time the film sparks up is when Jane and Adam do so, literally, at a party.

But my problem with It's Complicated isn't that it's not funny, it does have its moments. My problem was that I didn't believe in it for a second, and that stems mostly from Meyers' screenplay. For as fun as Streep and Baldwin are, it is hard to believe people could carry on like this. And if it is trying to say something about the complications of post-divorce emotions or a woman's midlife crisis, then again it failed to convince me.

Still, I won't be at all surprised when the film becomes a hit and audiences - the audience it is so squarely aimed at - have a positive response to it. And there's nothing wrong with that. In an era where most studio films are pitched at 14 year old males, sisters have to do it for themselves. Chalk another one up for Meryl. Me, I'll just wait for Julie & Julia's DVD release next month.

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