It's funny but contrived, but heartfelt - and funny ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

It's funny but contrived, but heartfelt - and funny

It's Complicated
My rating:

It took more than 3 months - it was released in Christmas last year in the States - but I suppose we should be thankful it made it to our screens at all. Romantic comedies about post-menopausal women, even ones starring Meryl Streep, don't exactly rake in the big bucks here in Malaysia; and while I'm sure we have our fair share of divorced women, I can't quite imagine them having a hearty cathartic laugh watching this movie. Because that's the segment that (divorced-and-60-year-old) writer-director Nancy Meyers' film is squarely aimed at, and certainly not at me. Still, it falls to me to decide whether It's Complicated is worthy of recommendation, whether you're young or old, male or female, single, married, divorced, or "it's complicated" on Facebook.

It is. In fact, if you are female and/or older and/or divorced, you might even add a half-star or more to the rating.

Having been divorced for 10 years, Jane Adler (Meryl Streep) finally feels like she's getting her life back together. Her bakery business is booming, she's looking to add an extension to her house, her eldest daughter is getting married, and the youngest of her three kids is graduating college. But at the graduation ceremony, she runs into her ex-husband Jake (Alec Baldwin), with his current much-younger wife Agness (Lake Bell) and 5-year-old son in tow. A spark reignites between them and they end up in bed - and thus begins an unlikely affair in which Jane is now the "other woman". Complicating matters is Adam (Steve Martin), Jane's architect, who is clearly falling for her; not to mention her future son-in-law Harley (John Krasinski) who inadvertently discovers the affair between ex-husband and ex-wife.

First impressions weren't very good. TMBF is male, single, and inclined towards the geekier pursuits (e.g. movies), and there's something about Meyers' world of upper-middle-class
whitebread older-womanhood that I found annoying. Jane was annoying. Her gorgeous California ranch house was annoying. Her same-age girlfriends, with whom she has regular get-togethers for pastries and gossip, were annoying. The girliness and bourgeoisie of it all was annoying, and I'm thinking this reaction of mine might be due to the fact that I have a penis. Fortunately, things got better once the plot kicked in.

Things also got better once it started getting funny. Even with this, there's a caveat - the jokes don't always work. The subplot about Harley knowing about Jane and Jake's affair, for one; John Krasinski has some priceless reaction shots, but I have no idea why he's so discombobulated about it. There's also a scene in which half the cast smoke pot, and it just seems like the actors are acting wacky without Meyers' script giving them any actual funny things to say or do. (The cuts courtesy of our venerated Lembaga Penapisan Filem may have something to do with it too.) But most of the funny bits are funny, and the big comic setpiece - involving video messaging and male nudity - gets some genuine big laughs.

But even with the contrived nature of some of the jokes, what comes through is a very insightful look at love and relationships in the golden years. While Jane wonders if she's lost her mind, Jake is ecstatic; he suddenly finds her so much more exciting than his hot young(er) wife, who is currently pressing him to have a baby with her. The sheer unlikelihood of their affair, Jake's wheedling over Jane's doubts, the good ol' old-people-acting-immature jokes - this is where the movie is at its funniest. Adam is also a divorcee, and it is through this commonality that he connects with Jane. And yes, there's a love triangle at the heart of this rom-com, and it's certainly refreshing to watch one that actually keeps you guessing which guy the girl is gonna end up with.

The fact that the principal cast is made up of older actors promises great performances, and for the most part it delivers. Streep is effortlessly watchable in the role, and perhaps even likable - once I got past my initial annoyance with her. (Still, I really wish Hollywood would stop throwing awards at her for every movie she does. "Effortless" means good but not great.) Alec Baldwin has proven himself a gifted comedian in recent years, and he has a terrific role to chew on here; in fact, Jake's characterization is remarkably subtle in how it balances both his charm and his caddishness. On the other hand, Steve Martin's role is disappointingly subdued. This is Steve Martin, Ms. Meyers; you couldn't have made him as funny as Baldwin? His Adam is sweet, but it's when Jake is onscreen that the film really becomes fun.

I've said before that I like romantic comedies, and I don't let testosterone get in the way of enjoying them. Thus I feel perfectly qualified to recommend this one, even if the first twenty minutes or so did get on the wrong side of my Y chromosome. (I seriously doubt I'm qualified to review Sex and the City 2, however.) It's a smart and fresh new take on long-term relationships, and the occasional lazy jokes don't detract from the genuinely funny ones. So to all the divorced ladies, go watch it, and hope you have plenty of good laughs at it. They may even be cathartic.

Expectations: Tina Fey and Steve Carell? Okay


profwacko said...

might watch this if i have the time.
cant wait for ur review on Date Night. hohooo

jfook said...

I haven't watched yet. :( Thanks for the review..

chicnchomel said...

should have asked you to take me to this movie; hubby said over his dead body...