Movie theaters are normally jammed with wish-fulfillment fantasy for 18-to-22-year-old boys; when a film opens up that's clearly a piece of wish-fulfillment fantasy aimed at 40-plus-year-old women, does that go up on the board as a victory for diversity? When a character is clearly wealthy, does that help the set design but hinder the dramatic development of the storyline? Do we change with time, and is that for the best? Why is Alec Baldwin so fluorescently, Oompa-Loompa orange in this movie?
These questions, and more, were whipping through my head when I saw It's Complicated, the latest comedy from that mistress of mega-comedy Nancy Meyers (Something's Gotta Give, The Holiday), whose films may be based on original scripts but look suspiciously like they were adapted from the Crate and Barrel catalog. Jane (Meryl Streep) lives in California; she runs her own café. She and Jake (Alec Baldwin) split several years ago — he took up with a younger model (Lake Bell), she took care of the kids. But at a family gathering in New York for the graduation of one of their three children, Jane and Jake wind up reconnecting over a few drinks … and, not to put too fine a point on it, under each other. Jane, who was once left for the other woman is now the other woman; this throws her life into a tizzy of great, if ill-advised sex and makes her neglect everything from her indistinguishable kids to her principles to the nice, nerdy architect, Alan (Steve Martin) who's working on the dream addition to her perfect home. …
And this, then, highlights one of the problems with It's Complicated, which is that movies where characters have to choose between a good life and a better one are, in fact, not that intrinsically interesting; Lisa Schwartzbaum wrote in Entertainment Weekly that the women who go see Streep in It's Complicated will not only envy her romantic fortunes but, more importantly, her copper cookware. And this set of fantasies — a loving group of children, financial security, being considered sexy and attractive by the man who hurt them long ago — are, for a certain audience, pieces of wish-fulfillment as potent, and as silly, as any bullet-bouncing superhero or martial-arts superspy would be for another one.
The performers in It's Complicated are, it must be said, velvet-smooth and ready right out of the box; this is why you hire Streep, Baldwin and Martin at this point, so it should be no surprise. Streep gets to be lusty and funny and flustered, both pre-and post-coital; Martin nicely underplays his character, with the exception of a scene where he and Streep discover how much pot's changed in the decades since they last enjoyed it; Baldwin is playing yet another corporate smoothie, self-confident and self-centered and awesomely oblivious, and if Jake seems like Jack Donaghy from 30 Rock with a quick smear of safety-cone colored spray-on tan, well, it's hard to not enjoy that.
But it is hard to enjoy the movie he and Streep and Martin are in, as it meanders for over two hours and stays within a narrow range best defined by White people on one side and green money on the other. Meyers is turning into the champagne version of Kevin Smith's beer-and-bongs approach, where the writer is the director and the director is the writer and both sides of the creative equation are remarkably happy with each other's work. It's Complicated isn't offensive, but compared to a comedy as light-and-slight as Meyer's earlier Something's Gotta Give — which had some nice notes about aging and acceptance between the frequent-flyer settings and frequent-buyer set decoration; It's Complicated's title suggests a complexity that the script never really gets close to. It's Complicated is a nice two hours of fantasy — think of it as Avatar for Eileen Fisher customers — but it's as predictable as it is pretty, and as totally disposable as it is temporarily distracting.