Dec 31, 2009

REVIEW: It's Complicated

If only Nancy Myers were better at what she does. I've got nothing else against what she does. I regard it as the highest calling in movies. The world needs comedies like plants need sunlight. Our older actors are scandalously underused. There is real room for the films of someone like Myers, which is to say witty mature, urbane comedies about marriage and divorce — exactly the kind of thing Cary Grant and Claudette Colbert used to make in the thirties. I love the set-up for Its Complicated: woman has affair with her ex-husband. It's worthy of Leo McCary or Sturges. Filmmakers have long forgotten about the plots to be got from divorce. The rescucitation of the super-rich at the cinema, at least at this moment in our history, I'm not so sure about. It tells you a lot about America in the thirties, I think, that the vision of top-hatted suavity in a film like Holiday didn't feel exclusive or snobbishly insulated from the real world, but rather served up the dream that kept the real world ticking. This too, could be yours, Grant whispered to his Depression-era audiences and whether it was true or not didn't matter: it got them through another day. The first thirty minutes of It's Complicated, on the other hand — as Meryl Streep kisses goodbye to her perfect children before fussing over the million dollar-conversion plans for her sumptuous Bel Air estate — made me feel like converting to Marxism and water-bombing the nearest Martha Stewart store. This movie would have been twice as good if the incomes of the characters had been cut in half. The whole movie would have been better if it had been cut in half. Its swollen with way too many scenes in which Streep explores or explains her feelings — to her shrink, her children. Who cares? Streep is too good an actress for speeches. It's there in her eyes, her embarrassment undressing, her flicker of boredom while Baldwin complains about his current marriage. This, she recognises. This, she remembers. Readers of this blog will now how devoted it is to the cause of Baldwin — the actor, the man, his marital problems, his dignity, the loss thereof, the perfect blend of pathos and absurdity that now clings to him. It's Complicated is the first film role where all those elements have come simultanously into play. He propels himself through every scene with the ferocious energy of a wounded bull seal, bearing down on a stoned Streep and Steve Martin like Thor himself, eyes like slits, murder in his heart. He powers this movie into the realm of genuine comic delirium. Martin summons surprising amounts of sympathy for his role as the sensitive architect suitor, laying it straight for most of the movie, and loosing the lunacy only in the scene where he gets stoned. Streep warns him that it's really strong grass; Martin puts it to his lips and takes the biggest toke you've ever seen anyone take, bending over backwards in a perfect arc as he fills his lungs, further back and further back, before releasing a massive plume of smoke. It's an astonishing, rubbery reminder of the genie of physical comedy that we know inhabits that man's frame, waiting to get out — a bit like watching Picasso draw stick figures with crayons for 59 minutes and then in the 60th, someone finally thinks to give the guy a paint brush.