Alec Baldwin, Meryl Streep, ... | THE EX FACTOR Meryl Streep cozies up to Alec Baldwin, her former husband, in It's Complicated
Credit: Melinda Sue Gordon

The audience for It’s Complicated knows what it wants from a movie by the director of Something’s Gotta Give, written for the star of Julie & Julia. And that audience gets what it wants within the first 10 minutes of Nancy Meyers’ blithe, self-regarding, fitfully charming paean to the fairy-tale luck of middle-aged women wealthy enough to maintain a delightful standard of living after a divorce. As the movie opens, Jane Adler (Streep) attends a sun-dappled outdoor party where she runs into her ex-husband, Jake (Alec Baldwin), with his much younger second wife, Agness (Lake Bell). Divorced for a decade, the Adlers are on enviably pleasant terms, even as Jane, in the artful, draped wardrobe of a fleshy fiftysomething, casts a rueful look at the second Mrs. Adler’s toned and flaunted bare midriff; after a 19-year marriage, Jane and Jake have the kind of easy, irreplaceable shorthand of intimacy that doesn’t dissolve just because their union has.

Finally, Jane leaves, solo, and returns to her picture-book Santa Barbara home. She walks into her magazine-layout kitchen. And, no joke, the audience goes ooooh. Look at the gleaming copper pots hanging from a ceiling rack (where’s my Williams-Sonoma catalog?)! Look at the bowl of luscious magenta plums (must stop at Whole Foods)! Ogle that sexy long farm-style table made for complicated cooking and convivial eating (Crate & Barrel? Nah, must be something custom-made)! Get a load of that stuff!

It’s Complicated is middle-aged porn, the specialty of Meyers, ? who also set ladies and interior ? decorators drooling over homes and gardens in 2006’s The Holiday. Specifically, the movie is middle-aged femme porn. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, au contraire, but let’s understand one another: This is a fantasy about a triumphant ex-wife desired all over again by her ex-husband. And for icing on the gâteau, she’s admired by a second cute, successful, eligible man, too?played by Steve Martin, no less! This is the stuff of Santa Barbara book-group literature.

Streep plays an icon of an accomplished, radiant woman. (She runs her own bakery/restaurant; at one point, she actually bakes chocolate croissants on screen, probably using a recipe handed down from Julia Child.) Baldwin draws on his bank account of viewer love for his brilliant work on NBC’s 30 Rock to play a rich, assertive lawyer — part chunky hunk, part Jack Donaghy. And when the two check in to the same New York hotel while attending the college graduation of their son (Weeds‘ Hunter Parrish), wine and reminiscence lead to a night of mind-blowing sex. (As is her prerogative, the awfully game Streep is mostly covered up; as is his, the awfully pained-looking Baldwin is often bared.) Waiting in the wings, meanwhile, with gentlemanly patience, is Martin as Adam, an architect hired to make Jane’s kitchen even bigger and more beautiful. Divorced himself two years earlier, Adam is a cautious catch; he’s more fun when he and Jane share a naughty hit of marijuana. Streep’s Jane giggles a lot — either the expression of her joie de vivre, or else a tic. She giggles with Jake, and then with Adam, and then with Jake again. She giggles with her adult children, youthful beauties out of a Garnet Hill catalog. John Krasinski pitches in as Jane’s empathic son-in-law-to-be, and she giggles with him, too.

Meyers, who wrote this original screenplay, throws in a few cheap up yours, Hollywood wives zingers, just for fun. Jane visits a ? cosmetic surgeon for a consultation, then flees in outrage. (Surely no mature actress in this movie has had a consultation, right?) Jake is observed with his pants down at a fertility clinic, nagged to duty by the relentlessly unappealing Agness. These gratuitous mean moments are parts of the porn, too, I realize. But they’re the dull parts. On DVD, Meyers’ audience will fast-forward to the next hot scene featuring a naked copper pot. B-

It's Complicated
  • Movie