Tuesday, April 16, 2024

It's Complicated

Written at the time of the film's release...

"Karma is the Ultimate Bitch in this One"
If You Can't Stand the Hot-Flash, Get Out of the Kitchen.

It's refreshing to see a movie about a mature couple of advanced age—mine—dealing with post break-up issues. I just wish they weren't being so immature while doing it.

Jane Adler (Meryl Streep) is reaching a transition point in her life—approaching "empty nester" age: her oldest daughter Lauren (Caitlin Fitzgerald) is engaged to Harley (John Krasinski), middle daughter Gabby (Zoe Kazan) is moving out of the house, and youngest, Luke (Hunter Parrish) is graduating from college. Her ex-husband Jake (Alec Baldwin) is now married to young "Ms. Thang" Agness (Lake Bell), with an inherited son (from her last affair), Pedro (Emjay Anthony). She has decided that she's going to expand her nest...er, house so she can have "the kitchen she's always dreamed of;" she runs a salonish bakery, and she can cook (second movie this year—Julie & Julia from Nora Ephron, this one from Nancy Meyers, both of whom seem to be trying to keep Streep in the kitchen).
Youngest son's graduation pulls the whole family together in New York, with Jake "flying solo" due to family illness. Once there, the two old marrieds hook up, and once Jane is tanked, there occurs a "once more for old times' sake" canoodling that leaves him satisfied and her vomiting.
Most guys would take that as a sign, but not Jake
. Soon, he's spending too much time at Jane's, telling his ex-wife that his current wife doesn't understand him, and while it may seem like sweet revenge for Jane, she's also creeped out by it, so much so that she won't tell the kids, and allows it to interfere with a budding romance with her architect (Steve Martin). Now, maybe I've been watching too many "Nature" shows on elephants lately, but I could have used David Attenborough to explain this mating ritual to me.
Maybe it's that Martin and Baldwin are playing the roles the other should have taken:
Martin's love interest is a deferential, shell-shocked divorcee with a manner that reminded me of Charlie Ruggles, and Baldwin's in full pursed lips obnoxious priss mode (without the "30 Rock" irony) that makes his character not so much funny as alarming. And Streep, consummate pro that she is, works the material for all its worth, fluttering and kvelling and kvetching, making Jane seem two pastries shy of a brunch. There are times when there seems to be some acknowledgment of time—Jane is constantly fanning herself, as if caught in a hot-flash, but the next instant she's giggling like Juno.
The one guy who seems to be doing something interesting is John Krasinski, as the not-yet husband who finds he's baby-sitting his future in-laws, and is the only one who seems to rise above the material to be doing something interesting—interesting and funny. As the only fully-informed character in the cast, he manages to convey the screwball nature of the situation, acting as the surrogate audience, eyes widening with each embarrassing compromise. He makes Meyers the director—with her sledge-hammer reaction shots and uneven pacing seem far more successful than she is.

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