Tuesday, January 26, 2010

It's Complicated: Screwball Seniors Sitcom



It's Complicated is seniors sitcom, baby-boomer screwball, cuisine cinema. Writer/director Nancy Meyers has crafted a feelgood movie that's funny as well.

It continues her involvement in this genre established in Something's Gotta Give and far outshines that effort.

The stellar cast don’t let her down. Meryl Streep as Jane Adler proves again that she does comedy as easily as the heavy drama that won her youthful Oscars. I’m beginning to think her quaint giggle is a personal trait not just part of her acting repertoire.

Alec Baldwin, as ex- hubby Jake, is made for this part of retread romeo. It's no coincidence that the filmmakers see him as their Spencer Tracy. He's good but not that good. Alec has the decadent girth we associate with successful American attorneys and the innocent eyes of the amoral egoist. When he looks Jane straight in the eye, it’s hard not to believe his spin. At times we almost symapthise with him as he tries to escape the second-marriage trap he has set for himself. Almost!

Steve Martin has less to play with in his role as Adam, the third corner of the triangle. It’s a fairly flat performance but zany isn’t what we expect from an architect. To Meyers’ credit, his contributions to the more comic scenes, such as the party, are mercifully restrained. It’s not the slapstick, loud Martin that many try to avoid.

The over-the-top stuff is left to John Krasinski as Harley, the future son-in-law. But the audience enjoyed his comic moments. The three grownup offspring are ably played by Zoe Kazan, Caitlin Fitzgerald and Hunter Parrish, as is to be expected from seasoned Hollywood professionals.

One thing that annoys is the trite setting in Santa Barbara's semi-rural Upper-Class America. Jane’s home is reminiscent of Rachel Getting Married. She is having additions made to the house where she lives alone. The kitchen isn’t big enough. Not! Anyway,who wouldn't want to wake to a view of the Pacific. Her bakery business is to die for, naturally. How else could she afford the lifestyle.

You have to wonder if the inclusion of Jane’s psychiatrist and Jake's fertility clinic are simply soft satire or just giving the audience something to identify with. It seems that having a shrink is just part of the conspicuous consumption of this section of U.S. society.

Lake Bell and Emjay Anthony make a suitably menacing, if stereotypical, mother/son duo as Jake's second family. Just part of the everyday world of post-divorce.

It’s Complicated has the feel of a French food farce. Most of the action revolves around eating but it just isn’t biting enough.


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