Saturday, January 25, 2020

It's Complicated Is a More Average Nancy Meyers Directorial Effort

The end of December 2009 was a brouhaha of new releases and, unless you were called Did You Hear About the Morgans? most of them yielded some form of financial success. Disney had their first hand-drawn animated film in five years with The Princess and the Frog, those Chipmunks were back for a Squeakquel, Robert Downey Jr. was getting a game afoot as Sherlock Holmes and Avatar was showing that the public had way more of an appetite for cat-people boning under trees than we could have possibly imagined. Oh, and romantic-comedy expert Nancy Myers also released a new hit movie in the form of It's Complicated.

This title focuses on Jane (Meryl Streep), who's been separated from her ex-husband, Jake Adler (Alec Baldwin) for years now, and is struggling to adapt to the idea of having to live life exclusively for herself now that her kids are all grown up and living on their own. Perhaps some romance could be in her future? Well, turns out that's just where things begin to lead as a chance run-in with Jake leads to the two of them spending the night together. Two people who previously couldn't stand being around one another might have just finally rekindled their long-extinguished flame. Clearly, sexually reconnecting with a divorced partner creates some...problems and those issues are only gonna get more complicated now that Jane is starting to develop feelings for architect Adam (Steve Martin).

If there's an issue with Myers' screenplay for It's Complicated, it's that it's oddly lacking in comedy. The only other two Myers movies I've seen, The Intern and especially The Holiday, were quite effective at consistently coming up with what could be described as cozy comedy. It's the kind of gags you might find in an upbeat Jimmy Stewart vehicle, ones where they soar based on the endearing nature of the characters and performers as much as they do on the writing itself. It's not that It's Complicated fails at that specific type of comedy or any kind of comedy, it's that it puzzlingly comes up short on even supplying attempt at jokes.

The film isn't totally devoid of gags as we get extremely broad jokes like an extended sequence of nude Alec Baldwin intruding on Streep and Martin's Skype call or John Krasinski (playing Jane's son-in-law) inadvertently seeing Jane and Jake meeting up at a hotel. But those are probably the most apparent instances of comedy in the screenplay, which is more concentrated on overly obvious dialogue and character arcs that go in about the direction you'd expect. Such familiar details could be more easily excusable if there was a great amount of comedy on display to keep your interest but It's Complicated is oddly lacking in that department for a romantic-comedy.

That having been said, a Nancy Myers movie can be called upon for bringing out the warm charm in talented actors and It's Complicated fares best when it's just getting by on the personalities of its primary performers. It's always fun to see Meryl Streep, a performer unafraid to tackle bold grisly material, in fleet-footed entertainment while Steve Martin lends a beguiling air to his role as a friendly architect. But the star of the primary trio turns out to be Alec Baldwin as Jake Adler. The concept of Baldwin being good at comedy isn't a foreign one given what extensive experience he has in this domain but man does he turn out to be perfect for this particular role.

Having Baldwin play this lughead who thinks he's a smooth as silk casanova is just perfect, especially in the moments where Myers' script has Adler speak these strained attempts to be romantic in that iconic gravitas-infused voice of Baldwin. That same voice I first got introduced to via Thomas the Tank Engine narration is now used for delightful comical juxtaposition on It's Complicated. Would that more of this movie had even attempts at that kind of entertaining comedy given how much of the project is based on very basic characters told through a similarly basic style of execution. But the actors help to make the proceedings agreeable if easily forgettable.

No comments:

Post a Comment