By James Madden. Viewed on 12/01/2010.
For me, it was an aptly complicated experience seeing Nancy Meyer’s It’s Complicated. Being a long time fan of Meyer’s work, starting with Father of the Bride (for me that is, her screenwriting career officially started with Private Benjamin in 1980) I did not hesitate in seeing her latest on screen venture. I shall get onto the actual film itself in a second, but before I do so, I do have to chronicle the experience of a 21 year-old male (albeit cinema studies graduate) attending such a screening.
So naturally, going up to the ticket box is a nervy and testing time when seeing a film that possibly questions your sanity, sexuality and chances of ever getting with the box office girl. And this time proved to be no exception. There was of course a pretty girl standing there waiting for patrons. Up I came, and then uttered the words “Could I get a ticket to It’s Complicated at 3.30?” I’ll give the girl credit, as she hid her amusement, disappointment, and or general humiliation on my part fairly well, but I could still see that air of “…”
Thinking that this was the height of the embarrassment when seeing a film that is marketed and mostly attended by the middle aged women category, I entered the cinema with slight trepidation, but with thoughts that it’s not like it could get any worse. I was wrong. I entered the cinema fairly early (probably the first mistake) to which I see a moderately populated sea of mostly 60+ women. As I walk across the front of the cinema (second mistake) almost parading in front of them to get to the furthest place from the door in which I entered (third mistake). I am noticed and it was not my paranoid neurotic brain that was imagining this, because as I ascended the stairs I am loudly greeted with “Oh, he’s back again!” The first place my mind goes is “Shit, they’ve seen me come into a similarly older aged marketed film alone, and they haven’t forgotten me!” Naturally, this was not the case, as it turns out I was mistaken for a cinema usher. One who they thought had returned to come and chat to them (because that’s what teenage cinema ushers love to do in their spare time). As I positioned myself in the furthest reaches of the galaxy (or the theatre) I could hear little mutterings from the previous encounter of old ladies that went something along the lines of “Oh, isn’t he cute….”
Emotionally unstable and feeling partly dejected from my youth, manhood and general sensibilities, I was probably in the most appropriate mood for seeing a Nancy Meyers film. Vulnerability is something that is so central to most of her leading characters, so naturally, I was in the right place.
In her latest piece, Meyer’s has Meryl Streep playing Jane, a baker who after 10 years of being a divorcee has taken control of her life, is about to start major renovations to her house, and then out of the blue, has an affair with her ex husband Jake (played to perfection by Alec Baldwin). But at the same time, she starts to fall for her divorced architect (played also to perfection by Steve Martin) and thus is born the decision of who to pick.
It’s Meyer’s characters that are of particular interest. She creates perfectly flawed, vulnerable and detailed people. What’s also interesting about these characters is that we see the reasoning behind their affluence. Similar to Father of the Bride, Baby Boom, What Women Want and Something’s Gotta Give, the main characters are successful people. But in these films, we see their workplaces, thus establishing a plausible logic behind the rather large affluent surroundings that the characters exist in. In It’s Complicated, Jane is a baker. We learn that Jane went to Paris in her early 20s for a short cooking course and ended up staying on as an apprentice baker. We see Jane make copious amounts of food, including the start to finish process of the makings of a chocolate croissant. This placement of food, which could possibly be a character of the film itself, features a commonality with Streep’s other 2009 release, Nora Ephron’s Julie and Julia.And the food looks delectable and irresistible too!
The three stars of the film shine. There are scenes that remind me of this 180 degree turn of the feminist film “male triple gaze” theory, with Baldwin being the one who is gazed upon, and not necessarily as a sex symbol, but at a point of amusement and comic relief. Diane Keaton’s nude 3 second appearance in Something’s Gotta Give can slightly be compared, in so far as the comic relief idea, but the difference is that she looked great, whereas Baldwin’s character is shown to be the result of 10 years without Meryl Streep’s character. Steve Martin for the most part of the film plays the straight guy, with the exception of one hilarious drug induced scene, and it is wonderful to see Martin almost playing against type. Both he and Baldwin bravely show such deep unexpected vulnerability, and thus create the decision of Streep’s character seem all the more challenging. Streep herself, is a powerhouse too and proves why she was nominated for a Golden Globe in the performance (where she faces stiff competition from Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts, Marion Cotillard and of course….herself in Julie and Julia.)
So while it was a complicated experience seeing It’s Complicated, there were no complications at all in sitting back and being entertained by the best.