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It's Complicated (Blu-ray Review)

26 Apr, 2010 By: Mike Clark

Street 4/27/10
Box Office $112.7 million
$29.98 DVD, $36.98 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for some drug content and sexuality.
Stars Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, John Krasinski, Lake Bell, Mary Kay Place, Rita Wilson, Alexandra Wentworth.

One of the biggest disconnects of any kind I witnessed last year was the one between casual moviegoers (who mostly loved Nancy Meyers’ comedy of traumatic post-divorce) and the seasoned pros — by this, I don’t mean exclusively critics by a long shot — who more or less shrugged. My own reaction was somewhere in the middle, and not only because It’s Complicated boasts a contender for last year’s single funniest movie scene. Meryl Streep’s juggling of equally middle-aged beaus Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin also filled an annual moviegoing need.

Though it’s a reasonable question how much this need will transfer to a home release on the April calendar, the movie did fill the year-end bill for that large group of family members (grandma included) always looking for something harmonious to see after the holiday dishes are done and wishbones snapped. Note the designation “family members” and not “family” because this is an ‘R’-rated movie (though with the soul of a ‘PG-13’ and one I’d have been ready to see by age 6, to be sure). But the rating is a little misleading: It’s the great gag that led to the MPAA’s “sexuality” designation, and the drug content reference refers to some (atypical for its characters) party-time reefer intake. Certainly, there must be a lot of grandmotherly products of the ’60s and ’70s who occasionally revert to their old doobie mindset.

If the cop played by Dick Miller in Roger Corman’s Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (on Blu-ray next week) referred to the Ramones as “ugly people,” these are their pretty counterparts. Streep’s divorcee runs an upscale eatery, Martin is an upscale architect trying to date her, and Streep’s still smitten ex-husband Baldwin is upscale, too. In fact, one knock against the movie is that everything in it oozes lushness and conspicuous consumption at a time when so many real-life people are having a tough time making a go of it. Well, one can concede this as a valid point (or at least a partial one) while also stopping to remember that this used to be the reason a lot of people in rotten straits went to the movies in the first place.

It’s true that the slickness of Meyers’ movies could jackknife any dozen rigs on “Ice Road Truckers.” But as in 2003’s Something’s Gotta Give, it’s also true that her leads here — also John Krasinski of “The Office” in support — largely bail out the material. All of the living room “Greek Chorus” scenes between Streep and her pals (Mary Kay Place, Rita Wilson, Alexandra Wentworth) come off as superfluous and somewhat pandering to the chick-flick audience base. It’s a different movie, however, when Streep is playing off the two men.

After The Devil Wears Prada, Mamma Mia!, Julie & Julia and this picture in recent years, it’s fascinating to me that Streep has suddenly become box office gold. Where were audiences during the early glory days of Plenty, Ironweed and Defending Your Life? Or even She-Devil (a lousy movie, but what a performance). In fact, I don’t even think The French Lieutenant’s Woman and Silkwood were that big, outside of the gray-matter demographic. Something to ponder.

The extras here include one of those no doubt sincere but nonetheless irritating featurettes where the co-stars fawn all over themselves to praise their fellow actors. The non-actor personnel who accompany Meyers on the commentary include cinematographer John Toll, who (speaking of lush cosmetics) may not even know how to shoot a movie that doesn’t look like a trillion dollars. I’ve always suspected that the only reason he didn’t get an Oscar for shooting Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line is that he’d won back-to-back awards for Legends of the Fall and Braveheart not long before. He also did the handsome-in-a-different-way Almost Famous, but let’s not rub it in.

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