Jane (Meryl Streep) is the mother of three grown kids, owns a thriving Santa Barbara bakery/restaurant and has, after a decade of divorce, an amicable relationship with her ex-husband, attorney Jake (Alec Baldwin). But when Jane and Jake find themselves out of town for their son's college graduation, things start to get complicated. An innocent meal together turns into the unimaginable – an affair.

Caught in the middle of their renewed romance is Adam (Steve Martin), an architect hired to remodel Jane's kitchen. Healing from a divorce of his own, Adam starts to fall for Jane, but soon realises he's become part of a love triangle.

Like Streep, I smiled a lot.

I prefer to avoid using the term 'chick flick,' which is not only sexist but way past its sell-by date, but I'm assuming everyone knows what I mean when I describe It's Complicated as a comedy made for a predominantly female audience – and, as it happens, a more mature one.

Have a look at the checklist of ingredients that help to make a successful film of this type and Nancy Myers's smoothly crafted entertainment scores a tick against every box:
"¢ Female perspective
"¢ Scenes of bonding and uproarious laughter among friends
"¢ Two competing male love interests
"¢ Real estate porn
"¢ Food porn
"¢ Gardening porn
"¢ Meryl Streep

Despite its title, the film is not especially complicated. Improbably wealthy deli-baker and mother of three adult children Jane (Meryl Streep) hasn't had a love life since her ex-husband Jake (Alec Baldwin) cheated on her with a much younger woman, whom he ended up marrying. Brought together periodically by their kids, who are always leaving home, graduating, planning weddings et al, they end up one night getting drunk and falling into bed together. Jake's second marriage is souring, especially now he has a young son, and he implores her to start seeing him again – he misses her terribly, he made a bad mistake, yada yada.

At this point you might reasonably expect Jane to tell him to go take a hike, or at least feel a little conflicted, given how badly he betrayed her and how much he's behaving like a pathetic sleaze bag. But this is not to be. Jane is flattered by the attention, still carries a flame for Jake and they start sneaking around like lovers at least 30 years younger, trying to conceal their reborn passion from their children and everyone else. Jane, meanwhile, begins dating her architect (a relatively straight-playing Steve Martin), a decent if slightly dull bloke who's been designing a new extension for her already palatial home in the Los Angeles hills – cue the house and garden porn. Why the living-alone Jane needs an even bigger space now the kids have left home is never explained, but I think it’s assumed that all female viewers will naturally identify with a woman who wants to expand her domestic terrain (there's an essay in this, but not here).

The above may lead readers into believing this is a machine-tooled piece of fluff, and though in many ways it is, this doesn't really do justice to the film's considerable charms. Foremost of these is the way Streep fits into the role. She's appeared in so many films that it's easy to take her talents for granted, but I found myself marvelling here at her natural radiance. Nobody smiles on screen quite as easily and naturally, and writer-director Myers makes sure she gets to grin an awful lot, even building in a scene that seems to last for about 10 minutes where Jane smokes some very strong weed and gets the inevitable giggles. It's an old gag but here it really works.

The film takes a little too much time in reaching plot take-off, before Jane and Jake start canoodling there's a leisurely 35 minutes of set-up, but when it gets going there's no denying that it conjures the magic that Myers was seeking from her book of spells. Like Streep, I smiled a lot.


2 hours
In Cinemas 07 January 2010,
Fri, 04/30/2010 - 11