it's Complicated, a new movie from Nancy Meyers, is really not all that difficult to figure out, once you agree the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Freshly-baked chocolate croissants and Croque Monsieur are nice, especially if Meryl Street plays the woman who bakes them and doles them out like bon bons to the men who love her.
Perhaps writer/director Nancy Meyers' inside joke (well, not that inside) was to cast the luminous Meryl Streep as a Santa Barbara-based, French-educated, baker-chef in her latest Marshmallow-Fluff of a comedy, "it's Complicated."
To further confuse matters and story-lines, this film follows on the heels of the recent great movie turn by Meryl as French chef extraordinaire, Julia Child. (in Julie and Julia. 2009).
Even more confusing, the late, dear Julia Child actually lived in Santa Barbara, where this movie takes place. A coincidence? I think not. Nancy Meyers is up to something (maybe even to one-upping something) and that could be Nora Ephron and her French chef movie. But never mind. This is another film about a woman who cooks (bakes) gourmet, only this time, she's also something of an accidental femme fatale.
In Meyers' romantic comedy, Meryl as Chef Jane hustles about her to-die-for stainless steel kitchens (both home and work) making Croque-Monsieur and luscious chocolate cake, all the while conjuring up the spirit, if not the memory, of her on-the-mark portrayal of Jullia Child. It's difficult (if not daunting) to keep these two French chefs separate. I kept flashing-back to Meryl, in the earlier movie as Julia, creating Palissade Aux Marrons and Rognons de veau en casserole. In her second food-related outing, Chef Jane is not nearly as accomplished, but just as cheerful. I wasn't sure, but it felt like the real Julia Child's spirit might have been hovering over Chef Jane's kitchen watching her cook and offering little wise bon mots about her Food & Wine Magazine picture-perfect dishes. Bon Appetite!
it's Complicated is less a madcap Billy Wilder comedy and more a case of art imitating art imitating life, which is only sort of funny, if you think about it. How many times can Meryl Streep play a popular French chef without actually turning into one?
Sadly, there is little else to think about in a movie that sort of plods along (like a parade of stale croissants). Clearly the possible reincarnation of Julia as a French chef named Jane is one of the only challenging moments in a movie that's more visual than visceral. The movie is simply gorgeous,(ah, the gardens....ah, the pastries...ah the people) and Meryl looks stunning and vulnerable at once. Steve Martin, as architect Adam, is dry and cold like a middling martini, (rather too dry until he gets stoned and manic) and Alec Baldwin, as Jake, her ex-husband, is well, Alec Baldwin (except pudgier). Jane falls back in lust-love with Jake, who mostly goes by the name of "Dad". For the life of me, given Dad's weight and his other problems, including a hot, young wife named Agness, I couldn't figure out just why Jane kept wanting to feed him rich foods that he insisted on eating until nothing was left to lick on the plate. There's a slight dust-up (well not even enough of a dusting to sugar coat a beignet) between Jake and Adam over Jane's affections, but when Jane rolls out croissant dough, guiding Adam's hands with hers, it feels like another throw-back to that seminal pottery-wheel moment in Ghost. Maybe it's only my imagination or maybe the croissant-dough scene is another of Nancy Meyers' quirky obsessions with other films. Can't be sure. Seems possible.
As far as the glossed-over morality issues of committing adultery with your ex, smoking pot at your kids' party, recognizing the traumatic effects of divorce on your kids, and making jokes with your girl friends about your s-EX life, well, a glancing blow is all we get about those issues. More food, less thought.
As a sidebar, I noticed a few TV stars as Jane's grown-up kids, but I didn't think they were nearly as good on the big screen as they are on the tube.
At any rate, I passed a pleasant Sunday afternoon watching a movie that did not make me think. But when I left, I left hungry. And that wasn't just because I missed lunch. No matter how you slice it, Marshmallow Fluff can just never be as satisfying as Beef Bourguignon.