Okay, seriously. Without being overly dramatic, I enjoy her films a great deal. What Women Want, Something’s Gotta Give, and The Holiday — these are films that are quintessential romantic comedy viewing. So how does her most recent effort, It’s Complicated, compare with her prior work?
It’s Complicated centers around Jane (Meryl Streep) and her budding relationships with her ex-husband Jake (Alec Baldwin) and her architect Adam (Steve Martin). It’s a pretty unique tale of a woman having an affair with her ex-husband, while simultaneously trying to move beyond the relationship.
What Nancy Meyers does is construct what I would call Upper-Class Romantic Comedies. The genre is full of them, but hers always seem to have a distinguished air about them. Her characters are often successful, career driven folks who find themselves in unique relationships, and the films show how these folks deal with them. She makes being rich and having problems fun to watch, without being incredibly patronizing.
She carefully chooses actors who are likable. Look at her filmography. Jack Nicholson, Kate Winslet, Diane Keaton, Mel Gibson, Helen Hunt… these are actors most of us have a pretty favorable opinion of. They’re all charming and charismatic in their own way, and It’s Complicated follows this formula.
I don’t know many people who dislike Meryl Streep. She’s a diverse actor to be sure, a real chameleon, but she also has a very personable feel to her that audiences tend to enjoy. Here she is fun and upbeat, quick and full of sass, a much lighter role than others she is known for. We like this woman, who despite being successful, rich, and with a beautiful family, is everything we want in a romantic comedy heroine. Streep gives our typical female a dash of originality without sacrificing integrity, and it’s a great change of pace for a film of this nature.
Alec Baldwin is Jake, but he more or less plays the Alec Baldwin you know and love. He’s the white collar asshole, the career driven prick, but by dog you love the guy. He’s funny, hilarious even, and even though he’s committing adultery on his new, hot, young wife, you can empathize with the guy. Jake is very convincing in his pursuit of Jane, even though on the surface the guy has it all: charming, good looks, great career. But he exudes a desire to return to himself with Jane, and return to the family they have.
The film is typical Nancy Meyers, and if you’ve seen her last two films you’ll know what I mean. Just look at the poster for this film, and look at those two. Same colors, same concept, SAME FREAKING FONT. She knows what brought her to the dance, and she doesn’t stray from the recipe in any way. The entire film has her touch. Soft focuses, extravagant homes, charming characters. Even the stories are beginning to blend into themselves, as she uses a lot of similar devices on characters. I swear, I could swap characters between her films and they would still fit in perfectly, and with a slight script modification, you could completely interchange characters between her last three movies.
Which is somewhat damning evidence when it came to watching this film. Sure, I enjoyed it, but I began to wonder if Meyers has a template she uses when she composes a script. The formula works, but it’s just pretty blatant. Each of her last three films has:
1. Strong, career driven woman: (Keaton/Diaz/Streep)
2. Charming Man: (Nicholson/Law/Baldwin)
3. Sympathetic Additional Male: (Reeves/Black/Martin)
But I guess for the genre, these things are to be expected. After all, outside of her, I couldn’t name one more writer/director who repeatedly produces quality films in the genre.
The film is fun in that it’s an easy meal. There aren’t complex themes, strong allegory or exceptional mystery involved. You can sit down, watch it, and then just let it take it’s natural course.
As the film evolves, it actually does get pretty, haha, complicated. We have Jake and Adam both vying after Jane’s affection, with her hesitant to make a decision. But you also have met Jake and Jane’s children, heard about the effects the divorce has had on them. Adam himself is recovering from a divorce, and his interest in Jane is the first he’s had in someone since then. Both Jake and Jane lie pretty blatantly about the situation to multiple people, which while likable, makes the audience question where their loyalties lie.
As it hits the fan, Jake leaves his wife and tries to reconcile publicly with Jane, she’s decided to move on. But unfortunately, Adam has gotten the brunt of the situation and is now ready to move on as well. So, no happy ending, which again is refreshing.
It’s Complicated is a fun movie where you can just kind of check your luggage at the gate and relax. The dialogue is crisp, the characters are fun, and the situation is unique. It’s about all you can ask for from a Romantic Comedy. Nancy Meyers creates another white-collar rom-com that while formulaic, is also enjoyable, and in a genre full of cliche and horrible acting, this movie is just so much better than the competition.
Score: 8.0/10 (Great)