Despite the title there’s nothing terribly complicated about “It’s Complicated,” the new slice of lifestyle porn from director Nancy Meyers that nicks its name from a facebook status. The pitch goes something like this: two men vie for the affection of one woman. Been there done that, but it becomes something a little more interesting when you attached the names Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, two dramatic actors who can do funny and Steve Martin, a funny actor who can do serious.
Jane (Meryl Streep) is a divorcee in Santa Barbara. Her last daughter is leaving the nest and now she wonders who she’ll watch “The Hills” with. She may not have to wonder for long. At her son’s graduation in New York she reconnects with her ex husband Jake (Alec Baldwin). They’ve been apart for ten years ever since he had an affair with Agness (Lake Bell), a much younger woman who is now his wife. The two unexpectedly hit it off, and now the roles are reversed—Jane becomes an ex-wife with benefits when she begins an affair with her former husband. The complication the title refers to is Adam (Steve Martin) an earnest architect hired to redesign Jane’s home but who instead falls in love with her.
It’s a standard setup for a screwball comedy and in the end not all that important. The important thing is whether or not you want to watch these people as they navigate the triangle that has become their love life. Luckily, Nancy Meyers has cast well, putting together a powerhouse front line cast that compensates for the story’s simplicity.
Meryl Steep is in “Mama Mia” mode here, having fun with the role of a restaurant owner who’s richer than the Dean in Dean & Deluca. She’s loose, funny and relaxed. Steve Martin has the least showy role as Adam, the lovesick architect, but his performance makes me wish he would aim a little higher and never again crack another “Pink Panther” script.
Despite Meryl and Martin the movie belongs to Alec Baldwin who steals every scene he’s in. The easy way with a line that has earned him an Emmy or two for his work on “30 Rock” translates well here and his vanity free performance—Hairy! Fat! Nude!—is easy going fun. This trio works through the hackier material, even selling the prerequisite “parents getting high for the first time in twenty years” scene. It’s been done many times before but it’s worth it this time around to see Baldwin super toking and Streep, high off one puff, gaze into a mirror and ask, incredulously, “Is this what I look like?”
On the minus side Lake Bell, who was the only funny thing in “Over Her Dead Body,” a bad Eva Longoria comedy from a couple of years ago, is wasted, cast as a stereotype, but leave it to Nancy Meyers to turn conventional Hollywood wisdom on its head and downplay the young characters in favor of the older ones.
“It’s Complicated” is an enjoyable watch, it’s a fluffy diversion from the heavier drama that tends to come out during the holiday season. Go for the Nancy Meyers trademarks—beautiful rich people who don’t seem to have to work, nice houses and exotic sports cars—and stay for the agreeable charm of the cast.