May 4, 2010

For men, cinema offers escapism to a degree unparalleled in cinematic history. All these comic-book films, so much of the big summer movies are about living out male fantasies. Cinema used to be the province of women, so there’s something somewhat refreshing – if just as vacuous – about a film like It’s Complicated. A Kick-Ass for the menopause set, it offers Meryl Streep as a divorcee courted by her ex-husband (Alec Baldwin) and a successful architect (Steve Martin). Everyone in the film is filthy rich, and all they have to worry about it is finding love again. My review of the Blu-ray of It’s Complicated after the jump.

Streep is Jane, a successful baker who is about to suffer from empty nest syndrome as her youngest daughter (Zoe Kazan) is moving out, and her son (Hunter Parrish) is about to graduate. At a friend’s party, she runs into her ex, Jake (Baldwin) and his new wife Agness (Lake Bell), who is obviously younger and firmer than Jane. When the two go to New York for their son’s graduation, they have dinner together, some drinks and end up having a marathon session in the bedroom. Jane pukes, but is happy to be having sex again. The two have an affair, but then Adam (Steve Martin) enters into her life. He’s also divorced, and it’s been a rough road for him. But Adam and Jane hang out, and in a sequence I feel I should hate but rather enjoyed, the two get high together (and then toke up with her son-in-law, played by John Krasinski).

Shot by John Toll, the film is gorgeous to look at, but the narrative is straight middle-aged women wank material. The premise of the film is that your old husband leaves his younger wife for you, but this time you get the chance to dump him. On some level, not knowing her life, I wondered if this is director Nancy Meyer’s fantasy, or just something she realized was commercial.

Everyone I know hated this film, and the fact that I was fascinated by it flummoxed them. They found it hateful and repugnant and alien. I found it alien (I will never be a middle aged woman), but once I realized this was just wish fulfillment fantasy stuff, I guess I was just interested into what this says about what women might want. It doesn’t say much, and it tries to recognize reality every once in a while, but mostly it’s content with serving the audience a perfect fantasy. Of course, the cast is filled with great talents, and though only every once in a while does a scene pop, there are a couple of moments here or there that do feel organic. Though it’s sitcomish, I thought Krasinski had a couple of nice moments of shock and excitement. I guess once I looked at the film as an alien concept and someone else’s fantasy, I just accepted it as that. I wouldn’t call it good, but I do feel like I gained an insight into something.

Universal’s Blu-ray is gorgeous, with the film in widescreen (1.78:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 Surround.  The film comes with a commentary by Meyers, executive producer Suzanne Farwell, DP John Toll and editor Joe Hutshing. There’s also a making of (21 min.) that talks to all the main cast. Not a lot of dressing, but they know their audience.

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