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What Women Wish

MOVIE REVIEW
It's Complicated (2009)

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Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Studios

“It’s Complicated” might take place in Santa Barbara, but it’s really set in movie land. You know where: Rich, luxurious homes, picturesque families, helicopter shots of resplendent scenery and a plot full of idealized romantic comedy. Writer-director Nancy Meyers has made such a milieu her specialty, and here she populates it with a cast rife with potential: Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin earn top billing.

Yet even they can’t keep the film from escaping the staleness of the formula, the sense that such white bread flights of fancy have become hopelessly dated at the close of the aughts. With films such as “(500) Days of Summer” reinvigorating the romantic comedy genre, there’s not much room left for movies that refuse to acknowledge that diversifying and changes are afoot.

Ms. Streep stars as Jane, a divorcee who owns a bakery and lives a pretty wonderful life, fretting over such crucial dilemmas as the details of an extension to her resplendent home. She’s a bit lonely, sure; but the company of her three flawless, cherubic children and standard circle of flamboyant, fun-loving girlfriends keeps her occupied. Sadly, ex-husband Jake (Mr. Baldwin), seized by renewed passion, intrudes on her carefully calibrated single-woman bliss. An affair begins, long sublimated feelings are faced, and a nice-guy architect (Mr. Martin) gets caught in the crosshairs.

Ms. Meyers and her cast bestow on every scene a sort of wink-wink cavalier attitude that reminds you at each possible turn that things aren’t to be taken seriously. “It’s Complicated” is a scrubbed-clean fantasy, the story of privileged people living lives taken straight from catalogs and engaged in misadventures such as sharing a joint, that have passing comic value but leave little substantive effect. An idealized portrait of middle-age, it telegraphs its intention — showing 50-somethings can be youthful and fun — from the get-go and hammers it home with unrelenting force.

IT’S COMPLICATED

Opens on Dec. 25, 2009 in the United States and on Jan. 8 in Britain.

Written and directed by Nancy Meyers; director of photography, John Toll; edited by Joe Hutshing and David Moritz; music by Hans Zimmer and Heitor Pereira; production designer, Jon Hutman; produced by Ms. Meyers and Scott Rudin; released by Universal Pictures. Running time: 1 hour 59 minutes. This film is rated R by M.P.A.A. and 15 by B.B.F.C.

WITH: Meryl Streep (Jane), Steve Martin (Adam), Alec Baldwin (Jake), Lake Bell (Agness), John Krasinski (Harley), Rita Wilson (Trisha), Mary Kay Place (Joanne), Alexandra Wentworth (Diane) and Hunter Parrish (Luke).

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