While there are some good laughs to be had in It’s Complicated, the latest from writer-director Nancy Meyers, the film is actually done in by a surprising culprit of bad overacting. That culprit is none other than the usually reliable Meryl Streep.
As much as I tried to like her, I could not stand Streep in this movie. The movie is bubble-headed, and she treats it like bad Shakespeare. While others in the cast, including Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin and a very funny John Krasinski seem to know they’re just doing time in a silly movie, Streep just kills the fun when she talks. Where’s Diane Keaton when you need her?
Streep plays Jane, a divorced mom who is forced to mingle with her ex-husband Jake (Baldwin) and his new girl Agness (Lake Bell). Jake, who is not having fun with his much younger wife, notices that Jane is still kind of hot. The two slam a bunch of cocktails and wind up in a hotel room doing unspeakably nasty things, punctuated by Jane’s profuse vomiting.
And so begins the affair, which is further complicated when Jane catches the eye of architect Adam (Steve Martin), who is planning her house extension. She begins dating Adam, sort of, while sexing it up with Jake. Jake becomes increasingly jealous, which makes him a hypocrite because he’s cheating on his wife. Hardee-har-har.
I’m a big fan of Meyers’ Something’s Gotta Give, another film about older aged sexual antics that starred Keaton and a little guy named Jack Nicholson in fine form. This film borrows some of the same gags—older people naked being a multiple repeater—and they still work. I just couldn’t get past the shrill Streep.
As for her leading men, they fare better turning potentially routine parts into something semi-memorable. Baldwin is equal parts slimeball and loveable goof as Jake. He doesn’t seem to be taking his part seriously at all, and that lack of seriousness works. Martin goes the aw-shucks sweet route, but when he gets the chance for slapstick with a pot-smoking sequence, he kills.
And then there’s Streep, who seems to think she’s shooting for another Oscar with this one. Lighten up, Meryl! The movie’s stupid, and you’re not. Sometimes it’s OK to be stupid! Her character comes off as a major whiner, yet she’s being pursued by Baldwin and Martin, and she lives in an awesome house. It’s hard to really feel sorry for her in her predicament.
And what’s with the kids in this movie? Jesus, there are no kids this happy on the planet, and I don’t care how rich their parents might be. The oldest son in this movie had me laughing. Problem is, his part wasn’t supposed to be funny.
I did laugh hard at the pot-smoking stuff, especially when Krasinski’s future-son-in-law character stumbles upon Streep and Baldwin sneaking a joint in the bathroom. Krasinski, who doesn’t stray far from his Jim “The Office” Halpert mannerisms in this film, might just be the funniest person in this movie.
Am I surprised to be knocking Streep? You bet I am. I certainly think she’s capable of dialing down her intelligence and acting tricks for movies. (She was great in the otherwise lousy Mamma Mia!) There are just too many times in this movie where she over-emotes.
The film stands as proof that the best performers can have a bad day—or however many days it takes to make a movie. But since Streep’s is the main character in the film, I would have a hard time recommending it. Hold your thumb up to the screen and cover up Streep’s whiny character for the movie’s entire running time. That might make it worth watching.