'It's Complicated,' with Meryl Streep, is funny food for thought
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, December 25, 2009; WE18
Some of the best -- and dirtiest -- lines in "It's Complicated" can't be printed in a family newspaper. Heck, some of the best lines aren't even lines.
Instead, they're looks, landed with the skill of a Chesley Sullenberger by two masters of comic acting in this very grown-up -- and very funny -- love story. The romantic comedy about a divorced couple having an affair manages to be both light on its feet and heavy enough to deliver something of a message. But more on that later.
The masters in question, of course, are Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin. As Jane and Jake Adler -- 10 years divorced and with three grown children, yet suddenly drawn back into each other's lives (and beds) after a drunken fling over the weekend of their son's (Hunter Parrish) college graduation -- the stars pick up the movie and run away with it. The writing and direction, by rom-com veteran Nancy Meyers ("Something's Gotta Give"), are deft enough. But it's Streep and Baldwin's gamely ribald performances, and their seemingly effortless, effervescent chemistry, that put the pep in this movie's highly choreographed, yet richly entertaining step.
True to the film's title, Jane and Jake's affair is a little tricky, made so both by the fact that Jake is remarried, to a hot but hard-looking harpy played by Lake Bell, and by the growing flirtation between Jane and Adam (Steve Martin), the gentlemanly architect who's redoing her house.
Women of a certain age are going to love that. They won't know which is sexier: that Jane is lusted over by two handsome suitors or that she's finally getting her dream kitchen.
In other words, there's two kinds of cheesecake being served here. The half-sexy, half-comic kind exemplified by an all-but-naked Baldwin attempting to hide his considerable girth (and man parts) behind the flimsy screen of a laptop computer -- in one hilarious seduction scene that involves Martin's character watching in horror at the other end of a video-chat screen -- and cheesecake of a more literal sort.
Jane, you see, is a talented chef and owner of a bustling bakery-cum-coffeehouse, and Meyers sets as many scenes as possible within its homey confines. There, or in Jane's casually elegant home kitchen, around whose farm-style table she's often shown preparing food for her adorable brood, which includes daughters played by Zoe Kazan and Caitlin Fitzgerald, and a future son-in-law (John Krasinski, never better).
Now, about that message.
Ten years after her marriage failed, food has become, for Jane, almost a surrogate for love. She uses it to bind her kids to her. She uses it to seduce Adam, in a late-night bout of the munchies brought on by a pot-fueled party, after which they passionately bake chocolate croissants together. And it's one of the things that Jake misses most about his ex-wife (and that just might explain that considerable girth). "I love it when you smell like butter," he tells her, in Baldwin's trademark, big-cat purr.
In the end, though, we don't ever get to see the finished new kitchen. We don't have to. When Jane finally does find love -- and I'm not going to say with whom -- it's not because of what's in her hearth, but in her heart.
Food Network porn, hot, middle-age sex and a happy, if slightly bittersweet, ending. For a particular audience -- but not just for that audience -- what's not to love?
Contains lots of sexual humor, scenes of drug use and a bit of crude language.