I’ve already expressed my immense distaste for Meryl in comedic roles with Julie & Julia, but strangely enough in this new film from writer/director Nancy Myers, I can’t say she was anything short of refreshing.
Playing Jane, a successful bakery owner, Streep has finally learnt to be friends with her ex-husband of 10 years Jake (Alec Baldwin), despite her dislike for his new and much younger wife Agnes (Lake Bell). Whilst in New York for their son Luke’s college graduation, a simple dinner becomes a full fledged affair, despite Jane worrying about what has drove her to do so, especially since Jake and Agnes are trying to conceive. Simultaneously Jane has begun a tentative relationship with Adam (Steve Martin), her architect who is still suffering from his divorce.
Complicating matters even more, their soon to be son-in-law Harley (John Krasinski) discovers what’s happening and runs interference so that their children won’t find out.
It’s Complicated? Certainly not, but they would like you to think so.
I came into this waiting for Meryl to prove to me that yet again that she is too conscious, too self-aware to be funny yet the moment never came. Yes, as always she is essentially playing herself but the warmth and confidence she expresses even in her mannerisms, despite the trials facing her character enable her to loosen up in a way I’ve never seen before. Streep is in command of every scene with everyone else competing for attention. Sadly, the attention also given to Jane in the script itself limits every other character contained within it, as a result, Krasinski’s Harely most of all comes off as needless, interrupting proceedings in the hopes of comedy but falling on his preverbal arsehole. Jake provides a suitable foil for Jane but the thought he gives to his current wife and their attempts to have a baby are never examined to any material degree, resulting in a character who despite being entertaining can never be taken seriously; even as her former lover, he is never a real contender for her affections.
Lack of development within the plot creates such inconsistencies that often the movie feels as if it should have been renamed “It’s Nothing You Haven’t Seen Before”. The children both parents seek to shelter are all in their 20s and repeat ad nauseum both how much they love seeing their parents be friendly with one another and also how they’re still dealing with the divorce that you wonder have anything better to be doing; I know it might be great and all but come on. Martin’s Adam, despite all his charm spends so little time on screen that he seems like nothing more than a plot device. Credit must however be given to Myers simply for the fact that as a director she elicited such charisma from Martin, who for anyone who has watched Shopgirl does not always naturally possess it. Even for a movie that focuses so much on Steep’s character, the simplicity of her response to being the ‘other woman’ is indicative of where a little more focus could have brought the piece on leaps and bounds, rather than focusing on set pieces, cleverly place neuroses and constantly referring to the characters’ ages. The characters constantly soliloquizing about the silliness of their actions only reiterates how without a few scenes of mature reflection, everyone is an overgrown child.
Some further thought and nuance would have really made this film into something above average, but as it stands Myers can celebrate her modest success.