Yet this is exactly what the otherwise respectable, mature and self-sufficient Jane Adler is doing. The Oscar-nominated writer/director Nancy Meyers proves once again that she is the queen of the romantic comedy in her latest feature, “It’s Complicated.”
As far as the plot is concerned, the very title tells it all. Former partners in marriage, Jake and Jane Adler, seem to have rather normal and decent post-divorce lives; since Jake (Alec Baldwin) is a well-off attorney and Jane (Meryl Streep) is running successfully a French bakery, they don’t have any financial problems. All Jake worries about is how to answer to the nonstop demand of his much younger second wife Agness (Lake Bell) of producing offspring, and Jane’s biggest problem is how to remodel her Santa Barbara home. The former couple is still behaving civilly to one another – Jane is guest at Jake’s engagement party, and they share a round of drinks in a fancy bar in New York while attending the college graduation ceremony of their son, Luke (Hunter Parrish).
But a one-night stand in an expensive hotel room ensues, which triggers a chain of events that disrupts the otherwise flawless lifestyles of the divorcees. In between endless hours spent in the fertility clinic and awkward bathroom encounters with Agness’ 5-year-old son Pedro (Emjay Anthony), Jake uses any chance he gets to sneak into Jane’s house, prompting her to treat him to her impeccably delicious dishes and to satisfy him in bed. In between reading the new blueprints of the house, managing the culinary business and tending to the needs of her three grownup kids, Jane tries her best to keep a respectable distance from Jake without hurting his feelings.
On top of that, the brave single mom has a new admirer: Her own home modeling architect, Adam Schaffer (Steve Martin). A recent divorce himself, the polite, composed and tactful Adam is the real conqueror of Jane’s heart. However, after Jake’s rude and even cynic penetration into the already complicated love triangle, the architect strategically backs off, much to Jane’s chagrin. Now that she has lost her boy and Jake has lost his girl (Agness has presumably kicked him out), their lives seem completely out of control. The kids’ disapproval of their parents’ reunion just adds fuel to the fire.
As always, Streep goes all out when portraying the motherly, courageous, autonomous Jane. The Academy Award-winning actress remains faithful to her image of playing maverick matriarchal roles on the big screen (“Kramer vs. Kramer,” “Marvin’s Room”) and on the stage (Brecht’s “Mother Courage and Her Children”). As a matter of fact, Streep’s character in “It’s Complicated” is a modern-day version of the bold mother from Brecht’s play. Jane’s culinary passion makes her a clone of another gastronomy-loving character portrayed by the actress: Julia Child from “Julie & Julia.” Even at 60, the legendary Streep is irreplaceable.
She casts a complete shadow over her male co-star Alec Baldwin. Famous for bringing an air of wittiness even to the most serious films (such as Martin Scorsese’s “The Aviator” and “The Departed”), Baldwin is the ideal embodiment of his character Jake’s immaturity, naiveté and comicality. Where Streep controls the dramatic aspect of the movie, Baldwin is in charge of the situational comedy in it. Another comic actor, Martin (“The Pink Panther”), leaves his comfort zone when portraying the humorless, discreet Adam. Yet Adam’s crazed dance with Bell’s character at the party is a reminder of Inspector Clouseau’s interest in younger women.
Bell, on the other hand, also leaves quite an impression here, despite the fact that her character has a relatively small share of screen time and is underdeveloped. However, the typical girl-bully appearance of the “Pride and Glory” actress is compatible with the image of the hippie-ish, self-centered, eccentric Agness. Despite the fact that Baldwin is old enough to be her father, she displays a complete control over his character in the movie. The hint that she might be a high-profile professional reminds us to never to judge a book by its cover.
Love is a battlefield. Love hurts. Love can not be explained, because it’s complicated.