Its Complicated review by Tom Blain

I entered my viewing of Its Complicated with more than just preconceived notions; I felt like I could write the review before even seeing the movie. Yes, part of my assumption was based off of a not so flattering trailer but more so off of Nancy Meyers recent history of unbearable films. My Meyers hatred started with the irritating Somethings Gotta Give and culminated with the over-the-top schlock in The Holiday. It just took two films and they were really bad. Why did I enter the theatre to see It's Complicated then? Part of me was out for blood. I wanted to be proven right about what I was already suggesting the movie was going to be like. I had an essay in my head before this movie came out about what a Nancy Meyers movie was and what was so wrong with her way of making movies. Part of that is detailed below, so before getting into Its Complicated a breakdown is in order of what irritates me so much about Meyers films to show why I figured Its Complicated was going to be garbage:..

Everyone seems to be rich. In general, Meyers films feature characters with an apparent unlimited amount of funds despite their job. Critics seem to be noticing this espeically with It's Complicated mostly due to the recession, but this is something I have noted for years. Diane Keatons character in Somethings Gotta Give lives on the beach in the Hamptons. Not bad for a playwright. In The Holiday Cameron Diaz (creates movie trailers) and Kate Winslet (writes a wedding column) swap mansions to get away from their lives at home. Saying Winslets mansion might be a bit of a push, but its fair to say her olde English country cottage is far from modest for a single woman in England writing an advice column. Even going back 10 years to What Women Want reveals a luxurious Mel Gibson condo in a Chicago high rise and a two or three story Helen Hunt Lincoln Park home; its justified, however, by the fact that they are both advertising executives.

On one hand I do understand why these decisions are made. On some level, movies are an escape, and people enjoy seeing comfortable furnishings on screen. A luxurious bedroom is more appealing and cozy than a crammed one-bedroom Manhattan apartment. Believe it or not, cozy sells (maybe not consciously but subconsciously people are drawn to films with nice surroundings). 90% of TV shows and movies pull this trick, but with Meyers it seems over the top; as if she is compensating for something that is missing with her story. For once I would like to see her interpret real people with real middle class lives and see if she can get away with it.

Enough with the Hans Zimmer. Just about all films have scores. But how a score is used varies from film to film. Some are used sparingly. In a Nancy Meyers film, its used to fill wistfully space where space doesnt need to be filled. Its used to help queue audience emotions, when simple acting should suffice. Its film watching for dummies. Again The Holiday was the most atrocious example of over-scoring. Heck, Jack Black played a film composer and even referenced Hans Zimmer in the film.

My life is perfectif it werent for the man I shouldnt have been with and cant get over. Clearly, since 2000, Nancy Meyers has chosen to write movies from not only the single, divorced/dumped womans perspective, but rather the single, divorced/dumped, cheated-on womans perspective. That might have something to do with Meyers own divorce from long time film partner Charles Shyer. It started with The Parent Trap features a divorced mother and father (the year Shyer and Meyers split). What Women Want takes the imperfect, cheating man, and gives him insight into the womans mind as if to say, now that you see through our eyes, you will sympathize and change your ways. He ends up with Helen Hunt. Then in Somethings Gotta Give an older, supposedly wiser (but inevitably dumber), self-made Diane Keaton has a too good to be true daughter and is a successful playwright. It appears to be very autobiographical. Then she fools around with an old dog philanderer, and could solve her man issues all by sticking with a different loving, younger, more stable man. Does she? No. The Holiday: two women with great jobs (and homes), two cheating men. And then Its Complicated which Ill get to in a sec.

Women on the edge of a nervous breakdown. For being female writer/director, Meyers seems to write women roles that show women at their worst: they are left in tears and shambles, ranting and raving, due to a man cheating on them and leaving them. And before long they usually come crawling back to that man, whether momentary (The Holiday Kate Winslet and Rufus Sewell) or permanent (Somethings Gotta Give Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson). Also notable is Marissa Tomeis small part in What Women Want. We get clear insight into how neurotic she is through Mel Gibsons newly acquired power. Now, the question is do they ever end up on the better side of things and empower themselves? Do they become stronger? Its up for debate. The most debatable dnouement is in Somethings Gotta Give because Keaton ends up with the cheater, and because the movie keys the audience to believe this is a happy ending, unlike a similar story in the far superior Goodbye Again. In that film director Anatole Litvak leads you to believe that Ingrid Bergman made a choice to stick with an older, philanderer but it comes with the price of his philandering.

So on to the movie itself. Jane (Meryl Streep) has been divorced from her husband Jake (Alec Baldwin) and his wandering eye for almost 10 years. In that time she has managed to breakdown, pick herself up, and build a tiny muffin empire in Santa Barbara. I dont want to go too in depth into her extravagant house; it seems every review starts off by drawing attention to that detail. But given Meyers history of giving her characters homes that would put them into outstanding debt (as stated above), it should be no surprise. Maybe her characters got their home loans in 2003!

Within the past 10 years, Jake has married his much younger fling and helped raise her child (who confusingly isnt his kid because well its complicated) and seems to have left Jane to raise three kids mainly on her own. The new wife (Lake Bell) is supposed to be hot intimidating, as evidenced by her head to toe opening shot, but instead comes off as kinda scary. She looks ugly when she is mad, she is really intense, and barks around Alec Baldwin in most scenes.

With Jane's life finally in order, and with her nest emptying, in walks the ex-hubby. Something about Jane seems to wag Jakes tail once again, and one night in New York they drunkenly hook up. And then again back in Santa Barbara. Before long the 60-something (or 50-something?) exes are having an affair together. Throw in a nebbish would-be boyfriend Adam (Steve Martin in a sadly muted role), three grown up children who get confused like adolescents, and WHAM! Its complicated!

Its difficult for me to say this, but the movie was much funnier than I expected. That said, it is still riddled with annoyances but they have been lessened. Hans Zimmers score is still there building up every scene, but thankfully its less noticeable than The Holiday. The issue of money was previously discussedL: mega-house and it isn't big enough for her. Janes meltdown occurred mostly before the movie while she was going through the divorce. Her affair with Jake brings up old memories but she isnt locked up in solitude with a Sams Club box of Kleenex and 5 pints of Ben and Jerry's. The man who is the missing piece of a perfect life is still ever present. Jake is of course that man who screwed everything up but its not like other films where there is an imbalance of power. There is a particular touching moment in the film where both parties accept blame for the divorce and how things ended. And Jane seems to be more or less in control of their affair (at least as much as Jake), as opposed to following him around like a sick puppy and then beating herself up about it endlessly.

There were also a few nuggets off the list that irked me. Luke (Hunter Parrish) is the annoying, smiley son of Jane and Jake. Everytime he was on screen I was hoping he would make a quick stage exit. I would consider his face very punchy. Her children were supposedly near perfect which did remind me of Something's Gotta Give (where daughter Amanda Peat was so supportive that she encouraged Diane Keaton, her mom, to sleep with Peat's ex-boyfriend... Eww!). But by far the most annoying parts of the movie were when Jane gathered her gaggle of friends for late night Chardonnay and cheese gab sessions. Five 50-60 year old women turn into The View crossed with a random slumber party on screen. God save us.

All that being said are enough things fixed to make this movie somewhat worthwhile. Meryl Streep playing the lead Meyers avatar seems to command the role with more dignity than some previous actors (Diane Keaton, Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet). There was a strength to her character that didnt so much exist in previous movies. Her chemistry with Alec Baldwin also created a better filmic atmosphere. Jon Krasinski (Jim from The Office) has been pretty blah in just about every other film Ive seen him in, but here he gets some genuine laughs. And thankfully, the movie doesnt shoehorn an unlikely/insulting ending.

I was truly expecting to write a hatchet job when I walked into Its Complicated. Even some critics gave this movie the sharp edge, but it wasnt deserving of such harsh criticism. Its a much better Nancy Meyers film than Ive been accustomed too and had some enjoyable laughs despite some standard annoyances.




5 out of 10 Jackasses
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