Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin Shine in ‘It’s Complicated’

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Average: 4.5 (2 votes) Oscarman rating: 4.0/5.0
Rating: 4.0/5.0

CHICAGO – Referring to her new film, “It’s Complicated,” Meryl Steep recently said, “It’s incredible, I’m playing the romantic lead in romantic comedies. Bette Davis is rolling over in her grave.” Tell Kate Hepburn the news.

Streep, our acknowledged greatest American actress, knocks it out of the part with this comedy, a farce as much about the strangeness of our social structure than as a vehicle for the hot middle age warriors of Streep, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin.

Streep portrays Jane, a bakery entrepreneur who has been divorced for 10 years from Jake (Alec Baldwin), who cheated on her with a younger woman who eventually became his second wife. When her son graduates from college, the family gathers together, but Jake isn’t with his new wife and child. A drunken reunion between the two ex-spouses leads into a bedroom liason, and suddenly this separation has sprung a leak.

Lust, Caution: Alec Baldwin as Jake and Meryl Streep as Jane in ‘It’s Complicated’
Lust, Caution: Alec Baldwin as Jake and Meryl Streep as Jane in ‘It’s Complicated’
Photo credit: Copywright © Universal Pictures

Enter Adam (Steve Martin), an eager architect who is also getting over a painful divorce. When he is assigned to create an addition for Jane’s home, his interest piques more in the direction of the fetching Ms. Jane than the blueprints. His deliberation in approaching her swirls around Jake’s renewed interest in her as well, and within the phrase of the title circumstances get “complicated.”

A nod must go out immediately to John Krasinski – Jim from “The Office” – who applies his everyman good looks and ah-shucks American boy persona to high comic effect. Since Meryl has already thrown down on old film star comparisons, how about John K. as Jimmy Stewart, with the same image that can be molded to drama or comedy. His timing and deftness was impressive.

The film is part French-slamming-door misunderstandings and part an exposure on how difficult it is to make decisions once love has entered the picture. How cupid’s arrow effects the three main characters is how the laughs are generated. Streep provides the balance, but cannot hold on herself, which allows a scene where pot smoking after many years dissolves into broad burlesque.

Alec Baldwin is at the top of his game. His “character” now – that of the confident, handsome middle age player – is thrown into the spin cycle as he practically dances in his new love for his ex-wife. The rule of comedy that he is following is simply to play the truth, and let the dominoes fall from there. His comic performance was rich, nuanced and in the exposure department, brave.

A Mild & Cautious Guy: Meryl Streep and Steve Martin as Adam in ‘It’s Complicated’
Photo credit: Copywright © Universal Pictures

Amid these two titans, it is Steve Martin that distinguishes himself as well. The ‘Wild and Crazy Guy’ sticks closer to what may be assumed to be his true self – a shy, confused and slightly smitten upper middle class working stiff. Think “The Spanish Prisoner” meets “Father of the Bride.” It was fun to watch Martin work his way through actual emotions, acting like the only adult in the scenario.

There were a couple very slight problems. We need better casting agents because again the children of Jane and Jake were miscast, so much so that they were remotely distracting (I said the same for “The Blind Side” recently). And the über American Dream success of all the characters – a trademark in writer/director Nancy Meyer’s filmography – is getting boring in this age of uncertainty.

But it is glorious to unwrap this Christmas present of a film. It is both a throwback reminder to manners comedies like “The Philadelphia Story” and a modern situational commentary on the fractured variations of family created through divorce and remarriage (how are things going at your house?). Stir in the high level performances of Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin, add the welcome spice of Steve Martin, and it becomes the perfect holiday movie brew…I mean view.

”It’s Complicated” opens December 25th everywhere. Featuring Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, John Krasinski, Mary Kay Place and Rita Wilson, directed by Nancy Meyers. Rated “R” senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2009 Patrick McDonald,

Bob M's picture

This looks pretty good!

This looks pretty good!

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