I went, last night, to belatedly see It’s Complicated, since I wasn’t home long enough over the holidays to talk my female relatives into attending with me. And, I am sorry to say, despite the presence of Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, and a manly effort by John Krasinski, Nancy Meyers’ movie is, in certain ways, the most relentlessly unpleasant movie I’ve attended in quite some time. It’s not as dreadful as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, or G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (which I saw for work, I swear). But there is an unrelenting sour note in between some quite effective bouts of manic humor and occasional tenderness.
Let me put it this way. Even if I am supposed to empathize with Meryl Streep, because she is a goddess, and because some day I, too, will be in my fifties and may feel insecure around younger women, it is not remotely okay for Streep’s character to have an affair with her ex-husband, who is now remarried to one of said younger women. And it’s not really okay for a movie that wants us to like Meryl Streep’s character to essentially refuse to reckon with the impact of that affair, which is summed up in a tear group hug with her children after which everything is supposed to be dandy, and one anguished look on Lake Bell’s face. As the Younger Woman for whom Baldwin left Streep, Bell is horribly abused by the script, reduced to a sexy midriff, occasional nasty hectoring, and then delivers one of the better moments of acting in the film when it becomes clear to her that her husband has fallen back in love with his ex-wife. It’s a moment, and it’s far more payback than Meyers deserved for giving her such a shrewish, one-note role. Streep’s character, despite behaving recklessly and selfishly, gets everything she wants.
My real problem with It’s Complicated isn’t the home design porn, of which there is a whole lot. I tend to believe that it’s basically the equivalent of movies where men have a lot of guns, or nail a lot of girls, or get to drive great cars. I just can’t get perturbed about that. No, what bothered me is the refusal to take Jane’s actions, or the loneliness that led to them, truly seriously. Meyers has made a movie that’s supposed to be a treat for women, particularly older ones, that instead viciously condescends to them.
That said, there is a great, extended, bravura central sequence involving Streep and Baldwin trysting in a hotel, Baldwin fainting, Baldwin having to explain to his doctor that he’s been sneaking FloMax, Streep and Martin getting stoned, Kraskinski getting stoned, and the judicious use of the Fine Young Cannibals “Good Thing” in a dance sequence (although for that song, no movie will ever, ever be better than Tin Men). The rest of the movie is sort of speechy and moral and nasty. It’s unfortunate. I haven’t disliked or been disappointed by a movie so much in ages.