It’s Complicated ****
In the past couple of years, a couple of things have become clear about cinema-going habits. Firstly, women really like to go the cinema, particularly older women, as evidenced by some of last year’s surprise box office hits, and, secondly, they really like Meryl Streep. It is almost something of an unwritten rule that when a film star reaches a particular age they cease to be bankable box office draws, Hollywood always favouring younger stars when it comes to attracting mass audiences, yet Streep has managed to not only break this rule but shatter it by delivering a series of films that have grossed over $100 million at the US box office. She is clearly a movie star for an older generation. And for anyone who thinks her recent box office successes were because of the star power of her younger co-stars rather than her own ability to draw an audience, her latest film It’s Complicated demonstrates perfectly that she herself is the star, as here she is the headliner and is not backed by any young female co-stars, her supporting players being similar age male stars Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. Box office success is one thing though for Streep has not only impressed moviegoers but also, for the most part, critics as well with her recent films. Does her latest film continue this trend? Well, It’s Complicated.
A decade after their marriage came to an end, Jane (Meryl Streep) and Jake (Alec Baldwin) are amicable friends who have both moved on with their lives. But problems set in when the pair find themselves out of town attending their son’s graduation. An innocent meal together rekindles their romance and turns into an uncontrollable love affair. With Jake remarried to the much younger Agness (Lake Bell), Jane realises she has become the ‘other woman’! Stuck in the middle of their restored love story is goofy architect Adam (Steve Martin) who is trying his best to woo Jane, much to Jake’s annoyance. Should Jane start afresh with Adam – or go for a rematch with Jake, who now wants her back? Is it truly possible for love and marriage to be better the second time around?
It’s Complicated is a film that will not be to everyone’s tastes. Obviously, though, writer/director Nancy Meyers had a very specific target audience in mind, that audience being middle aged females, and the film is very much geared towards that demographic, so much so that anyone who isn’t in the target audience and who happens to be accompanying someone who is – e.g. boyfriends or husbands – may feel outside of the loop as their companion enjoys the film. This is because, in many ways, the film is extremely gender specific. Meyers knows the female condition well and it shows in both her writing and direction. Much of the humour comes from situations that women will likely be able to relate to – obviously no consideration has been made for male viewers here – and, if you are like the women from the screening I was at, it will probably have you laughing hysterically. The themes are also based around things that many female viewers will likely be able to relate to, and the film’s representation of a woman facing a mid life crisis and finding herself torn between her physical attraction to her ex-husband and her developing relationship with the new guy is all the more effective because it draws from things that many viewers will probably be familiar with, reflecting the complicated nature of love and relationships. The story is actually not that complicated, in fact being quite formulaic in some ways, but nonetheless manages to be thoroughly entertaining and packed with very well developed characters and some excellent dialogue which is superbly delivered by the film’s cast, the three leads being truly entertaining and also believable. Meryl Streep has a less demanding role than in many of her recent films but is nonetheless the highlight, delivering a performance that is full of energy and emotion, a character who truly attracts empathy and sympathy and she shares excellent chemistries with both of her leading men. Sparks truly fly between her and Alec Baldwin, their chemistry being truly electric, while her chemistry with Steve Martin is very different, more tender, but nonetheless every bit as convincing. Baldwin and Martin themselves are thoroughly amusing, breathing life into their two very different characters. Strong support also comes from an amusing John Krasinski as Jane and Jake’s son-in-law who uncovers their affair. So, overall It’s Complicated is a film that the target audience should love but that probably won’t be appreciated much by some other viewers, i.e. the men who get dragged along to it (hey, they go to your films so it’s only fair that you go to theirs). Nonetheless, while I am definitely not in the target audience I did find the film quite enjoyable.
Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)
© BRWC 2010.
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