Seeing a woman at the helm of a big Hollywood prestige project like It’s Complicated, written and directed by Nancy Meyers, is theoretically heartening: Here’s a film made by a woman, telling a story about a woman (and one north of 50, at that), and it’s getting a major commercial and awards push from a studio behemoth.
The problem is that this movie is as insipid and borderline insulting as any made by a man, and Meyers’ ascent to the top of the female-filmmaker heap is a triumph of mediocrity. It’s true that romantic comedies fetishize the young, so it’s refreshing to see a story about divorcée Jane (Streep), approaching 60 and feeling pretty comfortable as a singleton, satisfied with her bakery business and forthcoming renovations on her insanely beautiful house (Meyers’ films are like furniture catalogs come to life).
But like any 20-something Hollywood heroine, Jane soon feels that pull of loneliness, the need for a man in her life, and so she gets two: One is her ex-husband Jake (Baldwin), a boorish lawyer who’s now married to a woman half his age (Lake Bell) but retains a magnetism Jane can’t resist. Soon she’s having a hot affair with her ex while engaging in chaste flirtation with the nice-guy architect (Martin) designing her home addition.
Complicated is a level above Meyers’ last rom-com for the middle-aged, the shrill, painful Something’s Gotta Give, thanks almost entirely to Streep’s grounded performance, which makes Jane seem like something approaching a real person. She’s still absurdly privileged and faced with problems that aren’t really problems, and Meyers still forces her to go through way too many cutesy comedy bits designed to laugh at, rather than celebrate, the idea of having a love life past 50. The most egregious is another of those “it’s funny when old people get stoned” bits that should have been put out of its misery years ago, but much of Jane’s journey is played for disingenuous laughs.
Creaky rom-com clichés and tedious audience pandering aren’t things to be celebrated, no matter which minority group they may be coming from. Perhaps, in the name of progress, Nancy Meyers could step aside and let more talented female filmmakers have a shot at the big time?