Judge Brett Cullum imagines all sorts of complications when Alec Baldwin is asked to get naked for Meryl Streep.
Jake: "I'm sorry."
The main draw of It's Complicated is a chance to see three great film comedians take on a character-driven romantic comedy about people well in to their fifties. All three leads were north of the big five-oh at the time of filming with Meryl Streep (Mamma Mia!) at 60, Steve Martin (The Pink Panther 2) at 64, and Alec Baldwin (30 Rock) being the baby at 51. It's rare for youth-obsessed Hollywood to even acknowledge that life continues after thirty, let alone craft an entire film around characters who can remember the original theatrical release of Logan's Run. It seems to be the mission of writer director Nancy Meyers (Something's Gotta Give) to make sure romantic comedies include some wrinkles, and here it hits the high definition Blu-ray format where we can see them all too clearly.
Facts of the Case
Jane (Streep) is finally becoming an empty nester now that all three of her kids have grown up and moved out. She's divorced, and has an idyllic life with a huge house in Santa Barbara and a large, successful bakery nearby. One drunken night though she finds herself in the arms of her ex-husband of ten years (Baldwin), and things start to get complicated. He's married to a much younger woman, and now she's the mistress of a man who cheated on her with his current wife. To make things more convoluted, Jane also has met an emotionally fragile architect (Martin) who is falling for her. Will Jane actually consider continuing her affair with the ex, or will she snap to her senses and realize the new guy may have more to offer?
The joy behind It's Complicated is that it recalls a long gone era when big stars would star in lush screwball comedies. It's all about beautiful people living in pretty places facing problems that lend easily to farce. The film looks gorgeous taking full advantage of upper class digs, and it is smartly written without ever compromising the likable characters. The can't-miss aspect of the whole thing is the casting. Streep can do comedy, and she also brings an appropriate seriousness to her character that keeps things grounded. Baldwin has no problem playing the slightly sleazy ex-husband who still has his charms despite his compensating with a young wife and a flashy sports car. The biggest revelation is watching Steve Martin who plays his part without ever descending into schtick or comedy tricks. The combination of these three is magical, although Baldwin and Martin are not on-screen together nearly enough to make me happy. They only get two minor scenes to play off each other which is a damn shame. Luckily both Martin and Baldwin seem to have great chemistry with Meryl Streep, so the whole thing works well from start to finish.
This is definitely the best looking release of the film, and it offers one or two extras that might appeal to viewers. The full 1080p high-definition widescreen transfer looks extremely detailed and well rendered for the Blu-ray format. You can see some of the tricks of the filmmakers all too easily as you realize shots of Meryl Streep are often softened in comparison to the harsh lighting on her male costars. Still, detail is what you get. You can see all the wrinkles in the craggy faces and every granule of sugar when the characters make baked goods. Grain pops up now and then, but it gives It's Complicated a film feel with its presence. Black levels hold up well to scrutiny, and are appropriately deep. The sound mix is a lively full surround affair with the DTS-HD master audio offering a crisp experience that never overwhelms. Technically the Blu-ray is a great looking way to experience a film whose charms are largely visual. The Blu-ray edition of It's Complicated is only differentiated from the DVD by adding a twenty minute stereotypical "making of" featurette and the Blu-ray applications that involve computer connections or cell phones with data plans. There is a feature-length audio commentary with director Nancy Meyers, executive producer Suzanne Farwell, director of photography John Toll, and editor Joe Hutshing which is also available on the standard DVD release. The foursome make for an interesting listen, but oddly enough mention substantial deleted scenes that are missing from the release. Nancy Meyers reveals a lot of subtext that she never pulled out in the film which is interesting to hear about.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The biggest problem with It's Complicated will be the divisive nature of writer and director Nancy Meyers who has her fans but also staunch detractors. She makes films that are overly long, always about well-heeled wealthy women, and her humor is subtle and never over the top. She's served well by a cast willing to adhere to her style, and they all punch up her rather predictable lines with some fresh inventive readings. I wanted more complications from a film that promises major hitches in the title, but that never happens. There is nothing that happens that will surprise audiences, and the whole thing is dreadfully cookie cutter in the plot department. Meyers seems content just plodding along and looking at these characters for just over two hours. Lucky for her, they are interesting enough to hold up to the lengthy examination. Despite any protests this one is a chick flick through and through, and I imagine many men may have to wince their way through it.
The cast is what makes It's Complicated worth checking out, and it gets a technically well rendered Blu-ray that offers a smattering of extras. The film is congenial enough, although I had hoped for something more involved than the simple comedy of manners that Nancy Meyers offers. Still, there's always joy to be had when the likes of Meryl Streep is teamed up with Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. It reminds me of a time when Hollywood was about big stars tromping their way through lushly designed screwball romantic comedies, and that's really not all that complex to understand.
Guilty of being frothy fun but never all that complicated.
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