This holiday premiere season, there’s one question probably not on your mind: is It’s Complicated significantly less stupid than its title, trailer, posters and tagline (“Divorced… with benefits”)? The answer, I barely care to inform you, is yes, thanks to careful direction and a cast more full of ringers than a United States Olympic basketball team. Writer-director Nancy Meyers, also of Something’s Gotta Give, acquits herself admirably in her apparent specialty of deconstructing ’70s movie stars by way of old-people romance. But it’s doubtful that she would have succeeded without the fine work of Alec Baldwin, Meryl Streep and Steve Martin, who play out a romance not only more convincing, not only funnier, but actually sexier than the young couples we’re supposed to enjoy watching generally manage. Unfortunately, Meyers never pushes the story far enough to make the strong statement about post-modern love that she clearly wanted to make.
It just looks so stupid, just so unbelievably stupid.
It shouldn’t be a spoiler that It’s Complicated has a happy ending, which in Hollywood means that the characters arrange themselves algorithmically into a neat grid of mutual obligation that takes into account strict monogamy, absolute no-homo for anyone in a leading role, loyalty to biological offspring, and devotion to True Love. In other words, by the end Meyers takes care to banish everything that the phrase “it’s complicated” implies. And the beginning involves no romance or comedy to speak of, establishing character and setting at the sluggish pace of a writer without faith in the audience or in her own abilities. But the middle zips, it crackles, it sizzles, it follows all the clichés about stories that don’t follow clichés. The middle section is so exciting, the MPAA gave it an R rating, for a couple of tame sex-having and pot-smoking scenes with no swearing and no violence. It’s obvious what disturbed the MPAA: this movie makes love and sex (and drugs) seem fun. Also dirty, illicit, confusing. Complicated, even. Hell, people enjoy food in this movie more than they enjoy love in most “romantic comedies,” which gives it real comic and romantic stakes.
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