DIR/WRI: Nancy Meyers • PRO: Nancy Meyers, Scott Rudin • DOP: John Toll • ED: Joe Hutshing, David Moritz • DES: Jon Hutman • CAST: Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, John Krasinski, Lake Bell
Nancy Meyers is not your typical Hollywood director, i.e. male churning out pre-pubescent fodder for overindulged mall malingerers. Meyers makes mature fodder for groups of overindulged mall consumers. Her romantic comedies involve the lifestyles of the rich and embrace that tired cliché of a woman needing to find completion (i.e. a man) in her life.
In 2000, Meyers, gave us What Women Want. In 2006, it was Something’s Gotta Give. Now in 2010, Meyer’s has It’s Complicated, a romantic comedy featuring Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin.
Streep plays Jane Adler, a divorced 60ish restaurant owner, who, after a few drinks, hops in the sack with Jake, her ex (Baldwin) and rediscovers her mojo. They flirt with each other and with the idea of reconciliation. The trouble is, there’s a few stereotypes on the periphery. Jake’s now married to a thirtysomething loot-foraging ballbreaker (Bell) and Jane’s in the throes of dating Mr. Nice Guy (Martin). You guessed it – it’s complicated. Surely she won’t lose her chance to find future love by boozing her way to former lust?
Obviously it is to Meyer’s credit that she is making films for a certain demographic, but this could have been so much more than the anaemic, anodyne effort it is. There are some half-decent one-liners along the way, some playful banter and a few laughs provided by Baldwin hamming it up. There was always something about Alec Baldwin that made me think of him as a natural candidate for comedy. Streep has always shone in comic roles but is limited by the fatuous whimsy she’s given here. And her character never extends beyond being defined by the men in her life. Depressingly, Steve Martin again plays his post-career role of the emasculated lackey. I don’t know what’s happened to him; but his eyes seem to have disappeared. Perhaps some Faustian deal – ‘you give me money for old rope and I give you my eyes…’
Meyer’s one-track writing of well-to-do fantasy females searching for love in a lavishly constructed ideal of suburban America fails to rise up above the flashes of potential Streep and Baldwin provide. Meyer’s script takes no risks and plods along eventually disappearing up its own botoxed backside.
And yet, there’s a deeper-lying problem at work here.
Manohla Dargis, the NY Times film critic, recently said of Mamma Mia that ‘it’s a terrible movie…but women are starved for representation of themselves.’ Dargis argues that the Hollywood system is a ‘no win situation for women filmmakers.’
Of course, she’s dead right. There aren’t enough fingers on your hand to list the female directors working in Hollywood, despite their ‘resurgence’ in 2009. Bigelow is one of the most interesting and, of course, the major exception in that she directs action movies. Meyers exists solely in that comfort zone of romantic comedy. Hell, it’s even a genre that the men rule the roost in nowadays with the likes of Judd Apatow’s perverse reimagining of them for men to embrace. So there’s something rotten in the state of Hollywood. And sadly Meyers, and It’s Complicated, is part of the problem rather than the solution.
It’s Complicated is released 8th Jan 2010