Monday, 11 January 2010
REVIEW: It's Complicated
There's a scene in The Holiday, romantic comedy connoisseur Nancy Meyers previous film to this, in which a mock trailer of a shit action movie plays in the background, and Meyers has a good laugh about how ridiculous it all is. Ahem, for a director who deals in wish-fulfillment quite to the extent she does, mocking the boy version seems a little like the pot calling the kettle black. Having said that, Meyers does take a lot of shit from male critics, who often accuse her of forsaking realism and then go right ahead and give Spider-man 2 five stars. This isn't to say her films are better then that particularly movie, its just calling it wish-fulfillment isn't a criticism. It's a description. My problem with Meyers isn't that she presents us with films so idealized that may as well take place in a slow-globe, its that she doesn't do it all that well.
It's not too much of a stretch to call It's Complicated Meyers best film, given that The Holiday was full-out abysmal, an overlong monstrosity of twee and blind optimism with no sense of humor. It could be one of the worst studio films of recent times. What else have we got, Something's Gotta Give and What Women Want. Right. So yeah, her best film probably. Its still not great really, and there's still that whole idealism thing, which is difficult to ignore. Meryl Streep's character has three perfect kids, a perfect son in law (Jim from The Office for Christ's sake) a mini-mansion and a job at a quaint little bakery. Which I could let slide if the film acknowledged this, or had a workable sense of humor, rather then more quaintness and gentle one-liners. The saving grace of this film then isn't what you think it would be either, which is Meryl Streep. She does fine in the more dramatic moments, but Streep the comedienne is something I never bought and she seems to go at it a little too hard which makes her character a little more annoying then she should have been. No, the single thing of real worth in this movie is the performance of Jack Donaghy himself, Alec Baldwin. Baldwin is one of those cases where there is a great actor trapped inside the body of a complete asshole, but when he finally shuts the fuck up and gets to the acting, he's very fucking goood at it. And as a conseqeunce his character may be the only real human being ever to set foot in a Nancy Meyers film, and he lends his character a depth that the film had no right to expect. Its Streep who's getting the acclaim here, but its Baldwin's performance that saves the film through and through. Steve Martin is beyond wasted in the straight man, genuine romantic option role. He just doesn't get nowhere near enough chances to be funny as we all know he can be. As for the rest, John Kransiski is Jim from the office, skew sweeter and more ineffectual. Lake Bell acts as eye candy, and a few other familiar names pop up with little to do.
Meyers tale of romantically involved old people, does have the occassional moment of none triteness I suppose, mostly involving Baldwin. But otherwise I think everything is too idealized to be relatable, you can do wish-fulfilment filmmaking if you like but it has to feel more merited then this. But the film is not going after me, as I am not a woman of a certain age, and by their concensus reaction in my screen, they seemed to enjoy it. So who am I to tell them that this movie sucks. Which it doesn't I guess, hitting more a consistent mediocrity. But Baldwin just about justified my ticket fee.