Jane (Streep) has been divorced from Jake (Baldwin) for a decade, but after a boozy night they begin an affair despite the fact that hes remarried to Agness (Bell). Things swiftly become complicated, especially after Jane meets nice-guy architect Adam
You can count on certain things in a Nancy Meyers movie. The lead will be a great actress who’s likable and capable. Her character will live in a house designed to reduce Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen to tears of envy. She will be beautifully dressed and lit at all times, giving her skin a glow, whatever her age. And the plot will give her the chance to amuse occasionally and move us momentarily, but will largely meander along to a drawn-out conclusion. It’s Complicated is no exception to these rules.
It’s not dreadful: Meryl Streep can’t help but be watchable and she has Mamma Mia! levels of fun as Jane, owner of a boutique patisserie, divorcee and mother of three. Jane discovers a new zest for life after beginning an affair with her ex, Jake (Alec Baldwin, also having enormous fun with what could have been a sleazy role), especially since he’s cheating on his much younger, hotter wife (Lake Bell, in a woefully underwritten part). As wish fulfilment for the first wife goes, it’s heady stuff — and that tailoring to fantasy runs throughout. Dialogue along the lines of, “Your age is a big part of what I like about you,” shows that this is designed for a certain audience, and of a certain age at that.
The problem is that the first bloom of the affair with an old flame is clearly as far as the concept went. What follows are rather limp romantic complications when we meet new love interest Adam (Steve Martin, going for restrained but hitting creepy), intensely irritating performances from Jane’s three children and the erosion of Baldwin’s character — designed to be half man, half monster, all charm — to bumbling fool in an increasingly ridiculous series of decisions as the affair stumbles along, undermining the rather lovely interplay that Streep and Baldwin initially create.
If it weren’t for John Krasinski, ostensibly the fiancé of Jane’s eldest but in fact delivering a masterclass in how to turn a tiny role into a nimble comic masterpiece, and the best efforts of Streep and Baldwin, the impossibly lengthy descent to farcical scramble that follows might be unwatchable. As it is, it’s another case of wasting the ingredients of a great rom-com.
Like all Meyers films, its more about interior design porn than real human emotions and drags on for far too long. Still, Streep, Krasinski and Baldwin are so good, they almost make it work. Almost.