It's Complicated: A Fantasy for Aging Feminists

It’s Complicated isn’t -- it’s a chocotini of a movie, ingratiating and inebriating to its target audience, mildly sickening to everyone else.

Meryl Streep plays Jane, a hugely successful baker and restaurateur who is quite happy overseeing the lives of her three adult children, one of whom is about to graduate from college. For 19 years, she was married to a hotshot lawyer named Jake (Alec Baldwin), who is now married to a 30-ish hottie (Lake Bell). During the family festivities, Jake flirts up Janie in a  bar -- and seduces her.

The movie occupies a fantasy realm in which the major problem faced by this 60-ish woman, besides her full romantic dance card, is how exactly to design the enlargement of her house presided over by another goggle-eyed suitor, a recently divorced architect. He’s played by a denatured Steve Martin, giving possibly the worst performance of his career. Martin seems to be in the mood solely to collect a paycheck here and his trademark off-the-wall wit is entirely absent.

Given that Martin is married to a journalist decades his junior and Baldwin’s date for the It’s Complicated premiere was a much-younger woman, neither actor was a particularly convincing choice to play a man who (in Martin’s case) stares with grateful amazement at the shapely contours of Streep’s rear end or who (in Baldwin’s case) delivers the line: “That was one crazy ride. I thought we were gonna break the bed.” He delivers that line after a ride of such apparent non-craziness that next to him Streep appears to be fully dressed, with only one shoulder of her dress taken down. Baldwin isn’t even Streep’s age; he’s nine years younger.

Feminists in the audience will whine that it’s perfectly fine for men to date younger women, so why shouldn’t it be okay for women to date younger men, even to steal them away from much younger wives? I have no quarrel with the morality of any of this, only the probability, which is of a sci-fi level. Dating books caution us that women who have barely reached 40 find that there are almost no successful men interested in them -- unless you’re talking about men much older than 40. Yet Streep spends the movie giggling like a sorority girl at her good fortune. She’s rich, she has a coffee klatsch of girlfriends who hang on her every word (one of them is played by Alexandra Wentworth -- do you know a lot of 60-year-olds who hang out with 44-year-olds? They’re in completely different stages of life), her children are scrubbed and shiny. And the men in her life speak in dialogue that sounds like it could have been written for Fabio: “You’ve turned my world right side up, Jane,” “Age is one of my favorite things about you,” “You know what’s great? How much I like you!” Actually, that last line sounds more like Elmo than Fabio.