STREEP BARELY SAVES ‘IT’S COMPLICATED’

Meryl Streep is one of our national treasures.

With a record 15 Academy Award nominations and two wins during her illustrious career, the 60-year-old native of Summit, N.J., is inarguably the most accomplished film actress in the history of cinema. Her range is so broad that no role transcends it, and she is a virtual master myriad accents.

She has appeared in such critically acclaimed films as “The Deer Hunter,” “Kramer vs. Kramer,” “Out of Africa,” “Sophie’s Choice,” “Doubt,” and countless others. Even if she is in a film that is not particularly noteworthy, Streep always is worth watching, and unfortunately, she’s just about all that “It’s Complicated” has to recommend it. With its outstanding cast, this new comedy had the potential to be very special, but it turned out to be quite ordinary.

Streep portrays Jane Adler, the mother of three grown children who has been divorced from attorney Jake (Alec Baldwin) for 10 years. In the meantime, Jake has remarried, but Jane has remained single and devoted herself to managing her highly successful bakery and restaurant in Santa Barbara.

Throughout the years, Jane and Jake have maintained an amicable relationship, but their son’s imminent college graduation reunites them at an out-of-town venue with surprising results. Through a series of circumstances, they find themselves alone at a hotel bar, and one drink leads to another and another and another and finally to an intimate dinner. Before they can say, “remember how good we were in bed together,” they find themselves in bed together.

Instead of being just a one-night stand, the incident awakens strong feelings in both of them, and they realize that perhaps their divorce has been a mistake. As they attempt to cope with these new developments, Jake has to deal with his current wife’s desire become pregnant, and Jane must decide whether or not to accept the advances of Adam (Steve Martin), an architect that she hired to help her do some remodeling.

Now if you go to this comedy expecting to be rolling in the aisles with laughter, forget it. Although the film does offer some funny scenes, the script does not use Martin’s comic genius to its fullest, and Baldwin is pretty much bland throughout the movie.

The film was written and directed by Nancy Meyers (“Something’s Gotta Give”), who earned an Academy Award nomination for helping to write the screenplay for 1981’s “Private Benjamin,” which starred Academy Award winner Goldie Hawn. In the film’s production notes Meyers explained what she was trying to achieve with the film.

“I was drawn to the post-divorce world that exes find themselves in and how their relationship, in many ways, never really ends: the bumping into one another, figuring out how to still parent together, how to live in the same town together. I noticed how much the word ‘together’ still exists once you’re divorced. The idea of exes reuniting surreptitiously was intriguing. The comic possibilities were very rich, and the repercussions of this ex-couple back in each other’s lives seemed dangerous and liberating at the same time. This story really pulled me in. The ‘What if?’ factor was just so complex that it had so many levels to it, and then there was a new man to bring into the mix just to complicate it even further.”

Undoubtedly the main thing this film has going for it is Streep’s presence. She is so incredibly natural on the screen that you forget you are watching someone play a role. Streep has the rare ability of actually becoming the character she is portraying, and this is why she is able to bring such depth to her parts. Jane is no exception. Streep often lets us know what Jane is thinking without saying a word because she can communicate so effectively with her body language and facial expressions.

Unlike Streep, however, Baldwin seems flat and almost uninterested in the part of Jake. He shows very little emotion throughout the film, and thus Jake lacks any real personality.

The biggest waste in the movie, however, is Martin. This guy has the ability to be incredibly funny, but his part here never gives him the chance to unleash fully his comic gifts. He comes close to doing what he does best during a party scene late in the film, but just when he begins to hit his full stride, the scene switches to something else.

Despite it’s all-star cast, this film never evolves into a classic romantic comedy, and that’s a real shame. The script just doesn’t make the most of the performers’ gifts, the story is shallow and predictable, and the result is just another in the long line of ho-hum, forgettable comedies that Hollywood loves to churn out. Unfortunately “It’s Complicated” (Give it a six because of Streep.) is just a bit too simple.

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