Wednesday, December 30, 2009

It’s Complicated

The charm outweighs considerable middle-life flesh

Posted By on Wed, Dec 30, 2009 at 12:00 AM

It's simple really: Just mix likable aging stars, reheat a cheesy romantic-comedy plot, add sugar and then whisk to a froth. Directed by Nancy Meyers — the poor woman's Nora Ephron — It's Complicated is the kind of movie that a gaggle of older women in comfy sweaters would love; you know, those who crowd around some ornate coffee table sipping white wine, giggling about "the boys" they like. 

Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin are Annie and Jack, a divorced couple who, at their son's graduation, drunkenly stumble into bed again. To their mutual shock, the old spark's still there, and they start having clandestine hookups in plush hotel elevators, under the noses of their dippy grown children. The only real snag is that Baldwin is unhappily remarried; his pouty, young trophy wife is played by Lake Bell, who's mostly around so that her taut bikini bod can serve as sharp contrast to Streep's earthy curves. There's also the matter of Annie's sweetly shy architect (Steve Martin), whom she's started a hesitant flirtation with. 

Saggy, naked middle-aged flesh serves as special effect in these sorts of things, with Baldwin bravely offering up extensive looks at his burly chest and flabby rump. While he used to gets sighs when he took off his shirt, he now gets chuckles, a fact Baldwin knows too well — and that amiable self-awareness and wounded vanity makes his performance a pleasure. Meanwhile, Streep twinkles like platinum starshine; she's so irresistible it simply isn't fair, and you're willing to overlook almost anything while she's onscreen. 

The material isn't on their level. Everything is rounded and smoothed by cloying sweetness and telegraphed emotion. Case in point: Streep's a baker, instant movie shorthand for soulfulness, which you can tell by the nurturing way she sensually massages the dough. Martin's so nice you think he's going to vanish into his grin, and I wish there were a just a hint of his old snot-nose underneath. The movie is like flipping through an endless Town and Country photo spread, which helps sell the cheery empowerment fantasy of a housewife who wants to feel sexy again. This crowd-pleasing fluff is only watchable because of the considerable charms of Baldwin and Streep, which proves that some things do get better with age.

Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to


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