Saturday, December 26, 2009

"It's Complicated"

I saw this rom-com for the freedom fifty-five set with two friends tonight at a late screening. It's a very well-written comedy about love in late middle age and like the kitchen our heroine is building, there's a few sharp knives of wit hidden in its well-oiled drawers.

The film stars the great Meryl Streep who has shown much flair for romantic comedy in recent years ( Mamma Mia!) as Jane Adler, a divorced woman in her '50s with a successful bakery business, three great kids, a gaggle of girlfriends and a large, beautiful and suddenly very empty house as her youngest heads off to university.

On the weekend of festivities for their son's graduation, Streep and her ex-husband find themselves alone in the bar of a hotel where they're both housed, pre-commencement. He has remarried: she has not. His second wife is at home with her young child, which, conveniently for the plot, is not his. It's the Adler's first dinner together alone, in a decade. A few bottles of wine later, complications ensue.

As befits a comedy for middle-aged people, the action is divided between the kitchen and the bedroom. Streep is preparing to renovate both with the help of an architect who has more than a professional interest in her. Steve Martin comports himself with admirable restraint as Streep's other love interest.

The ex-husband, played brilliantly by Alex Baldwin, is a somewhat louche legal lion who has realized, a decade later that the kitten he ran off with has long since become a cat and he already had a much nicer one and kittens in his former home. His appropriately tiger-tattooed second wife is marching him off to the fertility clinic at a point in his life when his children from his first marriage are finishing college. His longing for the comfort of his former life is palpable: you feel him wanting not only to sleep with Jane but to just come home where he knows he belongs and stay there, raiding the fridge with his grown kids and drinking wine in the garden.

This is a romance: all weddings and nice hotel rooms and witty friends and homes beautiful and an endless procession of culinary delectations. You know the Adlers belong together in cosy, late night domesticity: but there's a fly in the ointment. It's not the obstacle of Mr. Adler's current marriage which seems like one of the warmer rooms in hell, but rather the fact he's the kind of man who is only truly in love when he's after something he knows he shouldn't be having at the moment. The former Mrs. Adler knows him too well to be so unwise the second time around. Her wisdom tinges the film with sadness, a problem in a vehicle that requires by its very nature for love in all its heady blindness to conquer all.

I'm the target audience for this sort of thing and I enjoyed it. Unlike the lovely pastry Streep's character offers guests throughout the film, the ending was bittersweet and a little flat: not in the best way for such a frothy confection of a film to end in my view, but it's a small quibble with a mostly charming offering.

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