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We've all been there before, right? You live alone in a palatial Santa Barbara house with a kitchen that you constantly want to renovate even though it features two ovens. Your kids have grown up and moved on with their lives but they're magically back home all the time, wandering around sleepy in pajamas or hosting parties at their own tastefully decorated beige homes. Your ex-husband left you for a younger woman but still makes charming conversation with you at oceanside parties, your handsome architect will wait around like a puppydog until your next date, and a trip to New York is as easy as booking two rooms at a gorgeous Park Avenue hotel.
Wait a second... you can't identify with any of this? Then you're not remotely on the radar of Nancy Meyers, who proves with It's Complicated that she has no concept of a world beyond the easy-breezy lives of the very, very rich. Whereas the Sex and the City movie both fetishized and poked fun at the excesses of the wealthy, It's Complicated offers a peek into this world that's both self-righteous and obnoxiously condescending. Meryl Streep is able to have it all at 60, but don't fool yourselves plebians-- this life can never, ever be yours.
It might work better if the comedy weren't stranded between long stretches of dud moments, or if there was even the slight tinge of self-deprecation that made Meyers' Something's Gotta Give such a guilty pleasure. Instead we're given Streep as Jane Adler, a woman too self-sastisfied with her booming bakery business and three glossy, perfect children to bother looking for a man to share her life. When she begins to renovate her perfect home with the help of architect Adam (Steve Martin) while simultaneously embarking on an affair with her ex Jake (Alec Baldwin), it results first in some giddy screaming with her girlfriends (Rita Wilson, as is apparently contractually required in every chick flick, is one of them) and then some screwball-esque moments that largely fall flat, or at least flatter than they should. Son-in-law to be (John Krasinski, appealing as ever) catches Jane and Jake on their way to a hotel tryst, Jane and Adam get stoned at a family party, and memorably, Jake accidentally flashes his naked body to a stunned Adam on the other end of a video chat. None of it is as hilarious as it sounds.
The screenplay, also by Meyers, probably deserves the blame, especially given that Baldwin bears his (substantial) all and Streep mimes vomiting twice in effort to save it. It's bad even from the beginning, when Jane's kids are introduced with no explanation of their ages, their names or even how Krasinski is related to the clan. Jake's new wife (Lake Bell) is introduced basically as a set of abs, and even Jane, for all her woe-is-me moaning about loneliness in the beginning of the film, is surrounded by so many admiring friends and co-workers that she may as well be the prom queen. In her effort to spin her fantasy about romance among the rich, Meyers completely lost track of real characters, who would have been her only chance to appeal to moviegoers beyond those who would actually shop at Jane's ridiculously overpriced, over-decorated bakery.
You will watch this family who snuggles and eats popcorn while watching The Graduate, this woman who bakes chocolate croissants on a date, this pair of exes who sit at a hotel bar and fondly reminisce, and try in vain to find a single thing to relate to. Streep's laughter, which has been a central part of many of her parts lately, starts to feel less like an expression of joy than a "Serves you right, sucker!" vindictive howl, reminding us of how much money she pocketed while joking around with Martin and cuddling up to Baldwin. The three of them sure to seem to be having a lot of fun together, but not much of that seeps through to the audience. You'll feel more like you paid for their vacation than any entertainment for yourself.