It’s Complicated opens Friday throughout the Triangle
Jane (Meryl Streep) and Jake (Alec Baldwin), the couple at the center of It’s Complicated, pride themselves on their civilized divorce: Jake is now married to his tawny mistress, Jane runs a folksy bakery and, as far as we can tell, their three grown children experienced their split with a minimum of trauma. When their son’s college graduation prompts a temporary family reunion, the estranged parents, loosened by drink, fall into each other’s arms.
Writer-director Nancy Meyers (Something’s Gotta Give) isn’t really interested in dewy first love, and why should she be? There are endless movies for the younger demographic, but baby boomers deserve romantic comedies of their own. Accordingly, Meyers is interested in what someone in his or her 50s or 60s (the “not dead yet” generation?) needs and deserves in a romantic relationship. Jake looks at his ex-wife and sees her relaxed in her skin and her job, and enjoying the mature companionship of her grown children. Seeing all this, Jake can only lust after the household he sabotaged with his adultery.
Although Meyer’s lingering shots of croissant and kitchen can be derided as house-and-food porn, they have a point. Jake wants to return to the hearth symbolized by these shots, and his attraction to Jane is partly because she’s the link to his former nuclear family. Jane seems both delighted and horrified by the possibility of reconnection with Jake. As she muses, they have grown into the people they wanted to be, free from the stress of establishing careers and raising children. The children, too, eye the possibility of a parental reconciliation with both fear and desire.
The deft comic timing of Streep, Baldwin and, as an architect and romantic prospect for Jane, Steve Martin, is a given, and John Krasinski is adorable as one daughter’s perfect fiancé. As Jake, Baldwin is happy to mock his own bloated body and his character’s delusion that he retains his youthful sexiness. The film seems to assume, too, that audiences think the idea of older people having on-screen sex is intrinsically funny.
Certainly, one can sympathize with Jane’s dilemma: Do you have the strength to discover another person when someone in whom you have invested a score of years, like an ex-husband, reappears? In any event, the laughs keep coming, and there is a great comic set piece as the trio rediscovers the joys of smoking weed.
It’s Complicated endorses a truth not so universally acknowledged in an age where self-fulfillment is a paramount value: An ordinary domestic life has a lot to offer.