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It's Complicated

A movie directed by Nancy Meyers

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It's Complicated is also It's Hilarious!

  • Jan 19, 2010
  • by
Written and directed by Nancy Meyers
Staring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin
Universal Pictures
120 minutes

I don't see that many movies in the theater anymore, but when I saw the ads for It's Complicated, I knew I wanted to see it.  For once, I was not disappointed. This movie is a gem, a story that fits its medium beautifully.

One problem with being a writer is you tend to lose the ability to enjoy a book or even a movie because you can't turn off your inner critiquer. For all but maybe 5 of these 120 minutes, this was not a problem. For one thing, the script is so funny, the audience was howling with laughter. For another, it's perfectly cast-- not a stinker in the bunch. Finally, it's visually gorgeous as far as sets and lighting, but it's not afraid of showing middle-aged flesh, which I found refreshing.

The plot summary is obvious if you've seen any of the trailers.  Jane and Jake Adler (Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin) were married; he cheated with a much younger woman named Agness, and is now married to her, but Jane and Jake find themselves having an affair.  The hilarity ensues partly in their efforts to keep the affair not only from Jake's wife but from Jane and Jake's three grown-up kids.  Meanwhile Jane is remodeling her gorgeous Spanish-style house and her architect Adam (Steve Martin) shows an interest in her. She likes him but Jake is very persuasive and she holds Adam at arm's length until Jake lets her down.

Jake's side of the story has a lot of comic aspects that Alec Baldwin plays very well. He's an older man with a younger wife who wants a baby, and he's not happy about additional fatherhood at his time of life. He's following the path of least resistance but still trying to get what he wants.  He sneaks out of a fertility clinic appointment to go have a quick nooner with Jane at a hotel, the same hotel where their oldest daughter Lauren and her fiancee Harley (John Krasinski in a standout performance; he almost steals the show) are interviewing for their wedding reception. The bits where the fiancee tries to keep Lauren from seeing her parents are some of the funniest in a very funny movie.

One thing that stands out is that no one in this movie is worried about money. Jane owns and runs a combination gourmet food store, bakery, and cafe (Meryl Streep also played Julia Child in a 2009 movie.  She'll have to be careful not to get stuck in the kitchen in her next role or she could be typecast). Jake is a partner in a law firm and drives an expensive-looking sports car. The whole family flies to New York to attend their son Luke's college graduation and spends money like it was just a matter of picking some more in Jane's perfect-looking kitchen garden.  I suppose partly that's to make it plain that the important parts of the story aren't about money, but still, when you look back at it, you do realize that any movie that's about couples, children, and divorce and never mentions money is a fantasy.

The set-up for the affair is more plausible.  Jake's wife's son gets sick; she can't go to the graduation; they're all staying in the same hotel, but the kids want to hang out with Luke's friends at a party, so, inevitably, Jane and Jake run into each other in the bar, alone. Many, many drinks later, they wind up in bed.

Storytelling in visual form is very different from writing a book.  For one thing, you only get about two hours, three at the max. For another, you have to rely on a lot of other people to cooperate in your vision.  I think one reason this movie holds together so well is that the writer also directed it.  The only place I felt the script was at all weak was the set-up for Agness' backstory, which was more or less read out loud by Jane's friends as they sat around her coffee table drinking wine.  But I think that's because Nancy Kramer wanted Agness to have a five-year-old son without making Jake the father, and that took some convoluted history. Still, this script sparkles with witty dialog, and no character comes across as cartoonish or flat. And for once, it showed mature characters as being attractive without looking ridiculously young. It also does an excellent job at delving into Jane's character, personality, and motivations and makes her sympathetic without being perfect. 

If I were giving out stars, I'd give It's Complicated five out of five.

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January 27, 2010
Thanks for this great review, Karen.  I'm gonna say this with a healthy, football watching, beer drinking, raised in Michigan pedigree that I loved this movie too! :)
January 24, 2010
Great review, Karen!  I'm a sucker for rom-coms, so I'll have to check this out.  I'm sure the other followers of Lunch's Romantic Comedy Community will appreciate this review, too :)
January 19, 2010
I'll definitely check this one out! Sound enticing! Thanks for the review!
More It's Complicated reviews
review by . May 20, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
I have always thought my parents were a bit strange. Always fun, but definitely out there. But let's be honest, who hasn't thought that about their parents and/or family. Having grown up and moved out of the house I now find myself thinking back to when I was still living under the rules of the house and the traditions my family fell into. Truth is, no matter how frustrated I get with phone calls about computer issues or TV problems because the remote won't work, there are some very …
review by . July 24, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin were married for 15 years and divorced for 10.  They had 3 kids together, the eldest is engaged.  Even though Baldwin is married he seems bored with his current wife,   She drags him to fertility clinics and public school meetings.  Streep has finally adjusted to the divorced life and has been running a successful French bakery.  Her friends chide her about having a man and she reluctantly admits to them that she has been celebite for years.   …
review by . April 28, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Nancy Meyers wrote and directed this film about a strange form of adultery - a form that she condones because the adulteress is the 60ish divorced mother of three and the 'victim' is the pretty young 2nd marriage gal that the husband of the 60ish woman left her for and so that must be some kind of justice....Make sense? Well it seems so to Meyers whose long string of 'feminist movies' (Father of the Bride I & II, Something's Gotta Give, The Holiday, What Women Want, The Parent Trap, etc) writes …
review by . March 10, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
There is something about real life that is more romantic than fantasy.     Its Complicated takes advantage of what much of what is most endearing and funny about people who have been through child raising, marriage and career building--their genuine surprise when they fall in love. Meryl Streep plays a divorced woman with grown children who really doesn't expect to fall in love again and finds that she suddenly has two men after her. If she were 35, this would be typical romantic …
review by . January 16, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
In "It's Complicated," director Nancy Meyers accomplishes what she did in her earlier film, "Something's Gotta Give"; she creates a great female character who is over fifty-five, succeeds financially in the world without a man and still has the potential and desire to not only have a fantasy romance, but to do so with gusto. Unlike other `Ms.' magazine-reading cronies of her generation, Meyers' Jane Adler (Meryl Streep) character is not afraid to admit that she is lonely and that she feels badly …
review by . January 01, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Meryl Streep, John Krasinski, some cute laughs     Cons: Treats adultery lightly, uneven performances     The Bottom Line: Looking for a light-hearted comedy? If that, and Meryl Streep are enough for you, you might like this Middle-Aged Female Fantasy Film.     Somehow, my cousin and I managed to convince our husbands to see "It's Complicated" with us.  I know that Meryl Streep never disappoints me.  I was just hoping the …
About the reviewer
Karen Wester Newton ()
Member Since: Nov 11, 2009
Last Login: Mar 12, 2011 04:27 PM UTC
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About this movie


Jane is the mother of three grown kids, owns a thriving Santa Barbara bakery/restaurant and has - after a decade of divorce - an amicable relationship with her ex-husband, attorney Jake. But when Jane and Jake find themselves out of town for their son's college graduation, things start to get complicated. An innocent meal together turns into the unimaginable - an affair. With Jake remarried to the...

It's Complicated is a 2009 American romantic comedy film written and directed by Nancy Meyers, starring Meryl Streep, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin.

Jane is a self-reliant divorcée who owns a successful bakery in Santa Barbara, California. After 10 years of separation and three grown children, she finally achieves a good relationship with her ex-husband Jake, a successful attorney who has remarried the much-younger Agness. Jane and Jake meet when out of town and attending the college graduation of their son. A dinner together develops into an affair, making Jane "the other woman". Complicating matters is Adam, an architect hired to remodel Jane’s kitchen, who is himself healing from a divorce of his own, and who has begun to fall in love with Jane. He realizes he is now part of a very strange love triangle.

It's delightful to see Meryl Streep come into her own as a romantic comedian in her later career years--after all the accolades, the Oscars, the serious-as-marble dramatic roles. Streep is in fact a true cutup, as she has ...

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Director: Nancy Meyers
Genre: Comedy
Release Date: December 25th, 2009
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: April 27, 2010
Runtime: 1 hr. 58 min.
Studio: Universal Pictures
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