Special Photo: Universal. Meryl Streep and Steve Martin star in "It's Complicated."
3 out of 4 stars
Because she is regarded by nearly everyone as the world's premier dramatic actress, a lot of people don't associate Meryl Streep with comedy. When given the right material ("Defending Your Life" is the best example), Streep is a killer comedienne and is the best of many good things going on in "It's Complicated."
About to do for women of a certain age what "Knocked-Up" did for non-pin-up-ready men, "It's Complicated" is an adult romantic comedy with considerable bite and a borderline raw level of frankness. Like the first "Sex and the City" feature, it will attract millions of women who will see it in groups and then spend hours if not days reveling in its measured decadence and glossy opulence.
Divorced for 10 years from attorney Jake (Alec Baldwin), Jane (Streep) has settled into a state of comfortable indifference. She doesn't miss dating (or so she says), owns a successful Santa Barbara bakery and dotes over her three adult children and son-in-law Harley (John Krasinski in full scene-stealing mode).
Though not clear at first, Jake is in his own little purgatory. Now unhappily married to trophy wife Agness (Lake Bell) and stepfather to her bratty son, Jake has never fully gotten over Jane. While in New York to celebrate their son's graduation, Jake and Jane down too much to drink, drop all guard and, well, you know.
The cold morning light finds Jake with a frozen grin on his face and Jane praying to the porcelain altar. Her self-hatred quickly dissipates and is soon replaced with naughty self-satisfaction. Her close circle of girlfriends is dually shocked and impressed. Jane never knew that being so bad could feel so good yet doesn't share the same level of unhinged exuberance as Jake.
Jane's long romantic famine quickly becomes a full-blown feast with the arrival of Adam (Steve Martin), an architect designing extensions for her already palatial seaside estate.
Nice-guy safe and impeccably mannered, Adam wisely doesn't come on too strong and provides the perfect counterpoint to the burly and bullheaded Jake.
Picking up where she left off with the less-satisfying "Something's Gotta Give," writer/director Nancy Meyers turns the mirror on her audience by offering Jane two ends of the adult male extreme. The majority of women say they want a "nice guy" yet are inexplicably drawn to the bad boys and Meyers uses this mindset to buoy her story.
She also wraps everything up in an unconventional manner with an ending few will see coming.
What many people will notice is the decided above-it-all air of everything. Most of Meyers' movies revolve around the lives of privileged and filthy-rich people and, given the current economy, the flaunting of such extreme wealth and carefree spending on the screen is a bit off-putting. Even though she already has a huge kitchen with three sinks and two ovens, the soon-to-be empty nester Jane wants something newer, bigger and better. Too much never seems to be enough for people with everything.
Baldwin and Martin inhabit their respective characters' skin admirably and turn in superb performances. Baldwin could easily snare a Best Supporting Oscar nomination and Martin hasn't been this appealing and restrained since "The Spanish Prisoner." It will be interesting to see how they do as co-hosts of the next Academy Awards show.
Surprisingly better than its trailer indicated, "It's Complicated" offers the perfect diversion for over-40 females who don't usually see women their age portrayed in this mostly flattering and desirable manner. Meyers and Streep prove that age doesn't diminish allure and that smart men will recognize that true beauty has no expiration date.