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.

If this movie is to be believed, all cosmetic companies should immediately start specializing in age-revealing makeup, plastic surgeons should figure out how to add wrinkles, and personal trainers should work on sculpting their clients into pear shapes. But since the movie, written and directed by Nancy Meyers (whose recent films Something’s Gotta Give and The Holiday look like The Godfather and Citizen Kane next to this one), has no ambitions other than to be a yuletide treat, the absurdity of its situations could be forgiven — if there were anything driving the plot forward and if the comedy were actually funny.


For most of the movie, though, the only plot is Jane having indulgent, five-star-hotel sex with Jake and rushing around to various listeners (her friends, her shrink) asking them whether it’s okay. (Their verdict: Sure!) When the delicate matter of whether breaking up a marriage is suddenly more acceptable when the third party is creaky rather than dewy — “I’m now the other woman,” Janie tells her pals. “I’m the one we hate” — the verdict is: Don’t think about that too much. Just go with it.

As for the jokes, though Streep laughs constantly, almost maniacally, throughout, Meyers can’t think of anything funny for her to say or react to. She simply begins scenes with Streep in full merriment, as though someone has said something impossibly witty. At other times, Streep and one of her dates are seen giggling from a distance as Meyers ramps up the soundtrack music to cover up what they’re saying. The best Meyers can do to manufacture cuteness is order Martin and Streep to play with pastry dough. Looky! Streep made a little pretend-chin beard out of her dough! For a movie aimed at the grandma demographic, It’s Complicated is infantile.


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