There are times when you watch a movie and you need to think about it after the viewing to know if what you had just watched made any sense. It’s Complicated is one of those movies. The movie is riddled with problems that even a first-year film student would have been disgusted with. It’s not like Nancy Meyers is new to directing or anything. Despite the problems, the movie is worthwatching solely for Meryl Streep and John Krasinski.
The movie stars Streep as Jane Adler; a fifty-something divorcee who is in the midst of her youngest child graduate from college and faces the prospect of an empty nest. She keeps running into her ex-husband, Jake (Alec Baldwin) much to her frustration. She still acts cold towards Jake ever since he left her for a woman half her age. During a impromptu rendez-vous at their son’s graduation ceremony in New York City, they get drunk and have a one night stand.
Jane feels ashamed while Jake is thrilled. His new life has been less than he hoped and the night with Jane has rekindled his lost feelings for her. He continues to pursue her to restart their broken relationship. She refuses at first but eventually relents. Now the shoe is on the other foot since she is the mistress in the triangle. However, as she questions Jake’s sincerity, she begins to develop a close relationship with her architect, Adam Schaffer (Steve Martin).
Let’s start of with the good. Streep is excellent as an aging woman who rebounded herself well after a depressing divorce only to have it all come full circle after ten years. She’s beautiful and charming and you want her character to be happy despite the fact that she’s about to deal out the same pain that she felt all those years ago. Krasinski is excellent as the outsider who is close to Jane’s family. His character, Harley, tries to keep all the secrets from ripping up the family to amusing results. For the most part, the script allows for all the actors to truly make the characters their own as the main players slip right into their roles comfortably.
Not all the performances were perfect. Jane’s children are unlikable people and the people portraying them decided to phone in their roles. Their performances feel fake and all could have been replaced with inanimate objects. The scene with all of them in the same bed pouting not only feels lame but also unnatural in that it would never have happened in real life. That whole scene hurts the entire movie which, up until then, felt like a natural retelling of a bizarre situation.
Alec Baldwin isn’t much better. Even though he’s given the best comedic lines of the movie, he never bothers to do any acting. Granted, he delivers his lines well and nails the punchlines, there’s no difference between the various emotions he’s supposed to be doing outside of the odd grimace. Too many times he leaves Streep to carry the scene. It hard to say whether Baldwin decided to phone it in or Meyers didn’t want to push him, but his poor performance resonates through the film.
It’s all about the details and this movie skimps on them quite a bit. The movie only acknowledges Harley’s relationship with one of Jane’s daughters halfway through the movie even though he was introduced early on in the movie and had been played a role in several scenes before the film actually reveals why he’s there. The audience should not have to assume anything about the importance of a secondary character because there may be other possible reasons why he’s around (stepson, best friend, etc.).
The ending feels botched mainly due to the writer scribbling herself into a corner. Not to spoil the movie ending but the movie traps itself into lose-lose scenario for everyone involved. As bad as that is, the final resolution before the end credits feels like it was created to offer hope to both the characters in the fictional world and to the audience. It doesn’t work well and the movie would have been better served by eliminating the moments of despair towards the end. It’s as if Meyers wrote the movie as she went and didn’t have an ending in mind; only the plan to deal with it when the story got there.