It's Complicated
Story of rich, aging "yuppie love" __ 7/10

It's ComplicatedDirected by Nancy Meyers
Written by Nancy Meyers

Meryl Streep ... Jane Adler
Steve Martin ... Adam
Alec Baldwin ... Jake Adler
John Krasinski ... Harley
Lake Bell ... Agness Adler
Mary Kay Place ... Joanne
Rita Wilson ... Trisha
Alexandra Wentworth ... Diane
Hunter Parrish ... Luke Adler

One thing makes sense about midway thru the movie, and that's the title. The average viewer will follow the story of how wealthy West Coasters—not sure the exact location, but it looks like Pebble Beach and Carmel by the Sea (not too far from San Francisco)—Jake and Jane Adler, divorced for 10 years, have a tryst and a fling one night in the Big Apple (New York City). Then the average viewer will at some point in the story that develops from the tryst and fling exclaim, "It's complicated!" So good title.

Most Americans will also exclaim, "These people on the screen live in a world of luxury that I can't even imagine! How can I possibly relate to this? So a man and woman, who raised a perfect family in a 10-acre ocean-front model home in California, fall in love a second time; it's complicated and some feelings are getting hurt. My goodness. How will I sleep tonight? 'Buddy, the bank is about to foreclose on my house. Now that's a real problem!'" That's my sense of how a lot of viewers will regard It's Complicated, at least subconsciously.

Beautiful People abound in this movie from the same writer/director/ producer, Nancy Meyers, who brought you The Holiday, Something's Gotta Give, and Father of the Bride. We start from a party where Jake (Alec Baldwin), who has acquired a new, younger wife (Lake Bell)—and all that goes with it—eyes the mother of his grown children, Jane (Meryl Streep), in a way that says, "What was I ever thinking to leave you?"

The plot continues with a trip to New York, where Jake and Jane's youngest child, Luke (Hunter Parrish), is graduating from college. Once again, the average viewer is going to be thinking wow, these people move from coast to coast like I drive to work in the morning. Fly first class and stay at the best hotels. At least they're common enough not to have their own Cessna Citation airplane. Okay, maybe I can relate. [What was the movie the Russians used for anti-capitalist propaganda, it supposedly showed workers being exploited. All the audience wanted to know was how the women got nylons and lipstick, and families lived in their own homes.]

Truth is that many Americans have stayed in nice hotels on occasion, flown to distant cities, been close enough to top-of-the-line Porsches and Audis to at least know what they are. And seen the ocean, or had friends that once visited Clint Eastwood's Hog's Breath Inn in Carmel or took a tour on Pebble Beach's 17-Mile Drive. Maybe for me it's the Great Recession that stirs these thoughts of separation of the relatively few wealthy from the vast masses—where in the old days we less-affluent middle-class types had high, yet highly reasonable, hopes of actually building a better economic life for our families and ourselves... without having to sell our souls into the upper echelons of the state or the Eternal Corporate Hierarchy.[1]

All right, sorry, I'm making way too much out of this well-to-do business. It's a good movie with top-notch, hardworking actors. And it's a first-rate comedy to boot. If you go with the flow, you'll find yourself sympathizing with Jane more than Jake—but Jake does grow on you. For men out there who want to trade in their original wife for a newer model, It's Complicated provides plenty of food for second thoughts: Not too romantic when Wife #2 monitors her ovulation cycle like a lunar landing and insists on sperm donation at exactly the right moment. Or their six-year-old boy who's old enough to know when the old man is up to something.

The more-innocent divorced mate, Jane, has maintained a much more interesting occupation than Jake (nondescript partner in a nondescript law firm). She's become a gourmet cook and restaurateur at an upscale place in town; she has a group of girl friends—Rita Wilson, Alexandra Wentworth, and Mary Kay Place—to share her troubles and joys with. With the graduation of Luke, Jane's three children are all gone now. And, aside from the maid and the pets, Jane is looking at an empty nest. Is this the reason she responds to Jake's restored passion? Considers having him back?

Perhaps. [There's also some reference by the girls of Jane being cured of the Hawaiian Disease (lackanooky).] Streep plays every note perfectly in the tune of letting go of the mother phase of life. It's not as if her children are ignoring her. They probably stay over about as much as they stayed home in high school. The older daughter has a fiance, Harley (John Krasinski), who is like a son... and factors into the comedic double takes and carrying on like a pro. Harley is a riot, and the staging of the scenes where Jake and Jane are enjoying a secret assignation at a posh local hotel is expert.

To complicate the plot and provide a softer thread of humor, an architect comes along to design an addition to the home—Adam, played by Steve Martin. He brings us several quality scenes as an extremely kind and gentle man who is devastated by his own recent divorce and struggling with the 'dating' protocols; Jane is an absolute tonic for him. And he, it would seem, her. Where is this going? Can't tell you, of course. But in what turns out to be a semi-climactic sequence, we have a party where it all hangs out:

In addition to Jake discovering that Jane has been seeing a new fella, Jake's young wife Agness comes to this party and sees that Jake is dancing with Jane like a young romantic. Before the Agness nuts fly off the buggy, we must note that just as Jane and Adam arrive at the party Jane decides to spark a big ol' doobie[2] (that Jake has given to Jane in hopes she'll smoke it with Jake) with Adam, and, not realizing that a single toke these days is equal to a whole joint back in the 1970s, Jane and Adam are soon "intravenous heading toward Pluto."

I must say, give It's Complicated kudos for having the balls to basically put THC-potent marijuana up on the screen as an acceptable recreational option for the rich and beautiful (and by implication, the rest of us peons in the hinterland). Like when Elvis swiveled his hips and crooned "Love Me Tender" (making sex outside of marriage all right for white people), seeing otherwise law-abiding civilians toke up without dire consequences is liberating... providing a lot more positives than negatives for getting law enforcement out of the personal-chemistry prohibition business.

In the movie, the weed use is also a scream.

Final note: we're beginning to see the Baby Boomer actors go to the next stage of life—Streep was born in 1949—so how much longer will they be portrayed as parents of 20-somethings? Probably when the studios stop making money on it, eh? Anyway, good little flick, fun to watch, and, yeah, I wouldn't mind being part of that high-end lifestyle.

2010 October 06
Copyright © Brian Wright | The Coffee Coaster™
It's Complicated | Meryl Streep | Nancy Meyers | Alec Baldwin
| Yuppies

[1] It's still possible, even today, for ordinary non-politically connected persons, to have high reasonable hopes for success. But it does require some imagination. Please check out my recent column "The Solution: A life-flourishing system for normal humans."

[2] light a marijuana cigarette

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