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Friday, Dec. 25, 2009

It’s Complicated (Or Not?)

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It's not only less complicated than writer-director Nancy Meyers would have you believe, it's fairly simple. That titular "It" is of course the romantic life of the film's heroine, Jane Adler (Meryl Streep). Ten years after her divorce, and five years past her last sexual fling, Jane faces a dilemma that rapidly becomes central to her life. Should she become "that woman we always hated," and have an affair with a married man—who also happens to be her ex-husband?

Because Jane has recently fallen into bed with her ex, Jane's good friends, played by Rita Wilson, Mary Kay Place, Alexandra Wentworth and Nora Dunn, do what good friends do. They rationalize on Jane's behalf. "He was yours first," one friend offers. But since Jake's current, younger wife (Lake Bell) was "the other woman" in Jane's marriage 10 years earlier, the justification that sticks is, "It's her karma."

Jake Adler, played by Alec Baldwin in a charmingly manic mode few men can pull off, is both fun and sexy. His attraction to Jane is by turns a hopeful flirtation and his passionate desire. Brandishing a rather large beer belly and an even larger sense of the ironic, Jake is tired of being taken for granted by his young, bossy wife. 

And what man of a certain age wouldn't desire Streep? At 60 the actress is a natural beauty loaded with sex appeal. Streep has distilled the Shy Di giggle down to a science. Her Jane is warm, self-deprecating, a fantastic mom and a successful chef grown wealthy from her popular Santa Barbara bakery. The tasteful home she inhabits and the comforting food issued from her kitchen are a Martha Stewart dream come true.

Initially bordering on the farcical, the film straightens up and asks Jane to fly right when courted by Adam (Steve Martin), a mildly insecure architect. Women viewers want to protest, "No, no, no. Don't play it safe. Live large Jane!" After all, this fairytale is lived by beautiful, privileged people who ought to get everything we want for them, otherwise, what chance is there for the rest of us?