Sunday, January 31, 2010

It's Constipated

It's Complicated. D: Nancy Meyers. Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, John Krasinski. Meryl Streep gets drunk and has sex with Alec Baldwin. Meryl Streep gets stoned and has sex with Steve Martin. Do middle-aged people really have to get blotto to come on to one another? (At least I think Streep's character is middle-aged: In at least three scenes, the lighting and her makeup combine to make her look like she's 75.) On the other hand, if you were a once serious actress reduced to making late-in-life soft core porn, you might get drunk and stoned, too.

It's not that ingredients for a decent screwball comedy aren't there: the plot template of a fast-talking ex-husband trying to win back his former wife while she's romanced by a Ralph Bellamy type has been around at least since The Front Page. But Streep and Baldwin have no chemistry whatsoever, and anyway her heart doesn't seem to be in the role of the sex-starved ex who finds herself living it up with a man she thought she couldn't stand. Too much of her performance seems forced and by the numbers (which pretty much sums up the script as a whole). She and I can both do better, Streep seems to be thinking, and she's right.

Baldwin does fine as the immature cad who wants turn over a new leaf, and has the one genuinely funny scene in the film. He and John Krasinski (Jim Halpern in The Office) elicit most of the film's laughs, although those are few enough. Steve Martin is, oddly, given little to do in the humor department, but displays a quiet dignity as the movie's only real adult.

At times, It's Complicated seems like one long montage. The energy-sapping soundtrack repeatedly plays over scenes of eating and drinking in which everyone smiles and laughs and apparently amuses each other greatly as if they were members of the Algonquin Round Table. Other scenes are simply not credible. Would Streep's therapist, or anyone else's, bless an affair with a married man without pointing out the inevitable emotional pitfalls? And why do TV and movie therapists always have enormous, posh offices with designer furniture, anyway?

Which leads me to another pet peeve about this kind of movie. Streep's character owns and operates as successful Santa Barbara bakery, inventively called "The Bakery." But how does that translate into her owning a $5-10 million house near the beach? The kind of divorce settlement that would require would make Baldwin's character bitter for life and hardly interested in remarrying her.

Well, we're not supposed to look at these things too closely. And in a better film, one of the charms would be that we didn't care about what kind of house Meryl Streep lived in. But this isn't a better film, and its weaknesses are such that the underlying fantasy unravels. At one time, crackling wit and a rapid-fire pace distinguished romantic comedies from other movies. Now, we have is Alec Baldwin's naked ass and Meryl Streep throwing up in a toilet. No wonder Steve Martin looks so mournful...

The great E. J. Dionne agrees with Justice Samuel Alito's audible protest of President Obama's criticism of the Supreme Court's recent decision on campaign finance because it showed that the "Supreme Court is now dominated by a highly politicized conservative majority intent on working its will, even if that means ignoring precedents and the wishes of the elected branches of government..."

Mitch McConnell was for it before he was against it...

David Sirota writes that "disaster porn" glosses over the real story in Haiti...

WWII in HD...

Who was Spartacus?...

1 comment:

Bill said...

Wow, that WW2 HD set looks/sounds great. I'm definitely going to look into Netflixing it or something along those lines.