It’s really not that ‘Complicated’

14 01 2010

… even though it may want to be. That is, the movie It’s Complicated, which can’t decide if it wants to be A Big Life Message Movie or a fun Sexual Revolution Movie.

(actually, half a ♥, but I don’t know how to do that)

You know, it’s rather ironic/appropriate that the only thing that gets me to blog after months of inactivity is another Meryl Streep movie. I’ll say one thing: She looks gorgeous in this movie, and gets more ravishing as she ages.

OK, now I’m done being positive about this movie.

I’ve never, ever wanted to walk out of a movie as badly as I did this one, and I’ve seen some pretty bad/offensive films in the past. It started off being really boring, with awful, unfunny dialogue and loathsome characters – sure, maybe they’re trying to emulate the aged cast of Sex and the City, but they just end up looking like harpies who can’t get beyond the elementary thought that getting laid solves everything. Real generous of you to offer one of your Match.com castoffs, Rita Wilson, what a GREAT friend you are! And for goodness’s sake, it’s been TEN YEARS. I understand that people have difficulties dealing with their divorces many years down the line, really I do, but are your friends really going to keep harping on that a decade down the line? I sure hope not.

And don’t get me started on Alec Baldwin’s addled Jake Adler. Rather than coming across as lovesick and sweet, as I’d imagine you’d want with a film like this, he just strikes me as self-centred, self-deluded and disgusting.

Maybe that’s the subversive brilliance of this movie, that all the characters are absolutely abominable and make you want to hate every single last one of them, so that you realize that adultery is wrong, but I highly doubt it. Jane (Streep)’s indiscretions are played for cheap laughs in the beginning, with no indication that there might be something wrong, and she’s positively celebrated by her friends and (rather more obliquely), her shrink. You go girl! You snatch your husband back from that skank ho he cheated on you with! You rediscover yourself, we’re all rootin’ for ya!

“You’ve never been bad, so you’re allowed this,” exclaims one of Jane’s Botoxed friends over blueberry pie. And the one voice of dissent is spoken by Jane’s dowdiest, quietest friend, who’s lucky her husband is dead. So far, this isn’t looking like a condemnation of adultery. And any self-examination Jane does is quickly brushed off with a wink and a toss of the head and a rustle in the hay.

To top it off, Jake’s new wife Agnes is bitchy, saddled with an annoyingly precocious child whom she conceived after she cheated on Jake, and of course, she only wants to have sex when she’s ovulating, otherwise she’s busy whining about fertility or her kid’s kindergarten choices. Well, duh. Of COURSE Jake would cheat on a shrew like that! Who could blame him? /end sarcasm

Well, fine, if you want to go with that theme. AshleyMadison.com has already made a million-dollar industry out of making adultery fun for everyone again, so why not have another vehicle? But then It’s Complicated hits us with the worst cop-out ending ever, awkwardly finding its morality/happy-ending wings again in the final third of the movie. You can’t have it both ways, and certainly not the way this movie does it.

Abruptly, Jane loses her patience with the affair after Jake stands her up. There are no backwards glances, no thoughts of how it could have worked out, just an easy severing of ties and a quick move on to the next victim love interest. Which doesn’t really work if you’re trying to make this movie about the complications and struggles people in affairs have.

And are we suddenly supposed to feel sorry for Agnes when she finds out that Jake is still in love with Jane? Or when her sleeping son, so hate-filled in waking, curls his fingers around Jake’s in a clearly manipulative moment? Agnes quickly disappears after the discovery scene, and all we hear about her is from Jake, who is now this broken man who’s still honourable about his intentions towards Jane.

We see him becoming increasingly more sad and stalker-ish, culminating in his “revealing” scene in Jane’s bedroom, and then his shock that his children aren’t more happy that he and their mother are having an affair.

In the hands of a more skillful director and scriptwriter, Jake’s descent from self-assured to clearly pathetic could have been really, really interesting. I think It’s Complicated tries to show that a little, but the cutesy soundtrack and slapstick way of showing Jake’s increasing obsession really ruin the effect. I ended up just feeling annoyed whenever Jake showed up on screen and wanting him to just leave already, instead of feeling sorry for him or whatever it is we’re supposed to be doing. We can’t even enjoy his comeuppance, because the movie’s busy trying to show us how sad and lovesick poor Jake is, even to the end. I don’t feel sorry for Agnes either, or the Adler kids, as absolutely no time has been spent developing their characters.

The few honest, serious discussions Jake and Jane try to have about the affair are awkwardly interrupted so we never get to figure out what the movie is trying to say. Sure, maybe it’s deliberately ambiguous in that respect. But if so, it’s messily done. We rush from “ha-ha, let’s laugh at Jake’s nudity,” to “Oh my goodness, think of the children!” And honestly, who cares about the children? Each seems frankly a caricature – the wedding-planning eldest daughter, the partier son and the text-messaging youngest daughter – so we really don’t care that they’re confused about their parent’s divorce, which has now been on paper for nigh on 10 years. Frankly, so are we.

Then we get to Jane’s talk with Adam (Steve Martin), who maturely declines to see her again after seeing her ex-husband’s penis webcammed onto his iMac during an ill-timed IM session. That seems to work well, but five minutes later, they’re suddenly arm-in-arm again, laughing about chocolate croissants, with no apparent damage to their relationship even though he’s said he doesn’t want to deal with that kind of baggage. I think it’s also telling that the movie feels the only way it can spice up Steve Martin’s character is to have him light up a doobie and have him act stupid.

Yay! No one is hurt, and we’re all older and wiser, right? Even the children can just hug it out with Mom in a Von Trapp Family moment. Whatever. By this point, I didn’t care what happened to any of them, and the Adlers’ heart-to-heart in the garden seems pointless.

I see where the movie is trying to coming from, that we all have complicated emotions and we all do stupid things sometimes that we don’t necessarily regret, that adultery is maybe more grey than black-and-white (a position I vehemently disagree with, but whatever). But honestly, if this had been done with a younger cast, would we have found the message appealing at all, especially in this comedy format? What if we’d replaced the grown-up children with cute little toddlers and tweens? But no, when it’s zoomers or boomers or whatever the term is these days, it’s just so gosh-darn funny that they’re sneaking around with each other, they’re just such kids! LOLz. /end sarcasm

Bottom line: Unfunny, offensive, boring and messy. I want my two hours back.

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2 responses

27 02 2010
Meredith

Ugh, I previously looked up the IMBD synopsis for this movie and felt antagonistic from just reading it. Though the author’s added comments of “lol” after recounting plot activities may have also contributed to my irritation.
Have you seen “An Education”?

1 03 2010
krystlechow

Hey Mer! No I haven’t, but I intend to. Apparently it takes a more liberal view as well but it’s handled less stupidly. I’m fine disagreeing with a movie, but I want to feel like it wasn’t a waste of my time if I have to hear someone’s opinion that I don’t share.

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