Combustible Celluloid
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With: Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, John Krasinski, Lake Bell, Mary Kay Place, Rita Wilson, Alexandra Wentworth, Hunter Parrish, Zoe Kazan, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Emjay Anthony, Nora Dunn, Bruce Altman, Robert Curtis Brown
Written by: Nancy Meyers
Directed by: Nancy Meyers
MPAA Rating: R for some drug content and sexuality
Running Time: 118
Date: 12/10/2009

It's Complicated (2009)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Simply Awful

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I saw this the night after Meryl Streep won the San Francisco Film Critics Circle award for Best Actress (for Julie and Julia), and I almost wanted to take it back. Not that Streep is bad, but writer/director Nancy Meyers (Something's Gotta Give, The Holiday) has done her level best to make her look bad.

Streep plays Jane, a mostly-happy divorced woman who begins plans to build her dream kitchen. At their son's graduation, she unexpectedly begins an affair with her ex-husband Jake (Alec Baldwin), who is married to a shrewish, sexy younger woman, Agness (Lake Bell). At the same time, architect Adam (Steve Martin) shows up with a crush on Jane, and she appears to like him too. Will her affair mess things up with her potential new boyfriend?

Meyers starts off with some grating, overwritten dialogue, wherein everything every character says relates somehow to Jane or to Jake; no one has any personality of their own. (Only John Krasinski as a son-in-law seems to understand just what kind of humor this material needs; he doesn't mind jumping out of the story for a laugh.) And if you think that this is a grown-up movie, just wait until you struggle through the scene of Streep and Martin smoking pot before a party.

Meyers completely fails to find the strengths of the actors: Streep is too giggly, Baldwin is too bombastic and slapsticky, and Martin is too shy. Then she bathes the entire thing in a dull, even light, without a clue as to how to make this material move in a cinematic way. Finally, it's unforgivably, painfully long at 118 minutes. If you loved last year's dreadful remake of The Women, you'll probably like this too.

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