Radio 01.01.10
This is Ron Salfen, “At The Movies,” and here’s my commentary on a film opening this week at The Majestic Theater in Greenville :
            “It’s Complicated” is the film you’d like to root for, given the great actors associated with it, but then you start thinking about how unfunny it is--what they’re really doing up there on the screen--and the snide jokes becomes even less heartwarming, and even more…unnerving.
            Meryl Streep plays the Baby-Boomer single Mom whose kids are now young adults:  one’s married, another’s living on her own, the youngest is graduating from college.  She’s handling this “empty-nest” thing OK because she has a successful career, a circle of close friends, and, finally, the wherewithal to remodel her house, especially the kitchen, the way she wants it.
            The architect who’s designing for her listens attentively to her, patiently wades through all 84 of her e-mails, so he can customize the perfect addition for her.  Steve Martin plays this role almost perfectly straight.  The only time he mugs it up is when they enjoy a toke together on their first date, which loosens both of them up considerably.  (So, how old does a child have to be to view this casual drug use perspective without parental supervision?)
            But the relationship that should have worked doesn’t appeal nearly as much to Streep as her own ex-husband, Alec Baldwin.  (When you’re this famous the character names don’t matter, you’re so well-known you’re really playing your performance persona.)  Baldwin, in caricatured fashion, left his first wife and their children for a younger model ( Lake Bell ), who does indeed have a body that won’t quit.  But she also seems humorless and self-obsessed, and her nagging won’t quit, either.  He, understandably, begins to yearn for the old days, back when he could have a real, lighthearted, easygoing, conversation with an intelligent contemporary.  And yes, he misses being the Dad at the dinner table (way too late for that regret).  And so, he shamelessly romances his ex, at first successfully, and then she, after first allowing herself to be flattered by the attention (it’s a kind of vindication for his leaving her for a younger woman in the first place), wakes up to the idea that she’s now the “other woman,” making him an adulterer and potentially being a home-wrecker herself.
            This was not in her life-script, despite the fact that she reports it with gleeful hilarity to her circle of cackling-hen friends. (Or is it a Greek chorus of approbation?)  Her adult children, understandably, are not at all amused.  They don’t think it’s all that cute.  Finally, recognizing what havoc she is playing with everybody, she backs off, as if this fixes everything. 
            OK, now we think this might be a comedy?  True, there are some skillful comedic moments.  And it’s also true that comedy works best when interspersed with something else---in this case, some heart-rending Americana melodrama.  But it’s too much of an emotional mine field to be hilarious for very long. 
            “It’s Complicated” doesn’t live up to the enormous expectations produced by its own casting.  It’s not awful, and there are some funny moments.  But it’s just not as humorous or endearing as we’d all hoped it would be.
This is Ron Salfen, “At The Movies,” for 93-5 KICK-FM