It’s Complicated: Review

3 February 2010

Written by: Tom Cowie

For me, it was an aptly complicated experience seeing Nancy Meyers’ It’s Complicated.

Being a long time fan of Meyers’ work – beginning with Father of the Bride (for me her screenwriting career officially started with Private Benjamin in 1980) – I did not hesitate in seeing her latest on screen venture.

Naturally, walking up to a ticket box is a nervy and testing time when seeing a film that could question your sanity, sexuality and chances of ever impressing the box office girl. This time proved to be no exception.

There was of course a pretty girl standing there waiting for patrons. Up I came, uttering the words “Could I get a ticket to It’s Complicated at 3.30?”

I’ll give the girl credit, as she hid her amusement, disappointment, and or general humiliation on my part fairly well, but I could still see that air of “…”

Thinking that this was the height of embarrassment when seeing a film that is marketed and mostly attended by the middle aged women category, I entered the cinema with slight trepidation thinking that it couldn’t get any worse. I was wrong.

I entered the cinema fairly early (probably the first mistake) to find a moderately populated sea of mostly 60+ women.

As I walked across the front of the cinema (second mistake) it felt like I was parading in front of them as I searched for the furthest place from the door (third mistake).

Positioning myself in the furthest reaches of the galaxy/theatre I could hear little mutterings from the old ladies; something along the lines of “Oh, isn’t he cute….”

Emotionally unstable and feeling a long way removed from my youth, manhood and general sensibilities, I was probably in the most appropriate mood for seeing a Nancy Meyers film. Vulnerability is something that is central to most of her leading characters, so naturally, I was in the right place.

In her latest piece, Meyers has Meryl Streep playing Jane, a baker who, after 10 years of being a divorcee, has taken control of her life. Jane is about to start major renovations to her house, and then out of the blue, has an affair with her ex-husband Jake (played to perfection by Alec Baldwin).

However, at the same time, she also falls for her divorced architect (also played to perfection by Steve Martin).

It’s Meyers’ characters that are of particular interest. She creates perfectly flawed, vulnerable and detailed people. What’s also interesting about these characters is that we see the reasoning behind their affluence. Similar to Father of the Bride, Baby Boom, What Women Want and Something’s Gotta Give, the main characters are successful people.

But in these films, we see their workplaces, thus establishing a plausible logic behind the affluent surroundings that the characters exist in.

In this particular rom-com, Jane is a baker. We learn that Jane went to Paris in her early 20s for a short cooking course and ended up staying on as an apprentice baker. We see Jane make copious amounts of food, including the start to finish process of making a chocolate croissant.

The placement of food, which could possibly be a character of the film itself, features a commonality with Streep’s other 2009 release Julie and Julia (directed by Nora Ephron). An added bonus is the food, which looks delectable and irresistible too.

The three stars of the film shine. There are scenes that remind me of the feminist film ‘male triple gaze’ theory, except flipped 180 degrees. Baldwin is the one who is gazed upon, and not necessarily as a sex symbol, but as a point of amusement and comic relief.

Diane Keaton’s three second nude scene in Something’s Gotta Give can slightly be compared, in so far as it was also comic relief, however the difference is that she looked great, whereas Baldwin’s character is the result of 10 years without Jane.

Steve Martin for the most part of the film plays the straight guy, with the exception of one hilarious drug induced scene, and it is wonderful to see Martin almost playing against type. Both he and Baldwin show unexpected vulnerability, making the decision of Streep’s character even more challenging.

Streep is a powerhouse too and proves why she was nominated for a Golden Globe in the performance (where she faces stiff competition from Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts, Marion Cotillard and of course herself in Julie and Julia.)

So, while it was a complicated experience seeing It’s Complicated, there were no complications at all in sitting back and being entertained by the best.

James Madden is a graduating Bachelor of Arts student, who majored in cinema and media studies at La Trobe University. He contributes to The Vine and is a co founder of Film Blerg.