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UMass Professor Barbara Krauthamer receives award from Association of Black Women Historians -

October 18, 2017

It’s not all that ‘Complicated’

Picture a 50-something Alec Baldwin slinking around a bedroom post-romp, rubbing his portly, significantly hairy torso, muttering not so seductive words of love. The newest mid-season horror movie to hit the silver screen? Try again. Baldwin, along with Meryl Streep, Steve Martin and John Krasinski, stars in 2009’s last romantic comedy, “It’s Complicated.”

Streep portrays the main character, Jane, who vows to start life over once her ex Jake (Baldwin) reveals he’s going to start a new family with his new wife, who happens to be about 20 years Jane’s junior. Streep, however, holds her own. With help from a band of friends, she shows the personality of the character easily early on, not leaving the viewers guessing about anything to do with her aspect of the storyline.

Jane’s been taking care of their three nearly-grown children almost alone. She’s made her life about everyone around her for so long that she simply wants to begin anew. Jane decides, then, to begin renovations on her home, and continues with her love life.

Enter Steve Martin. An actor known for great films, such as “Planes, Trains & Automobiles,” “Father of the Bride” and “Bowfinger,” he fails to showcase his talent in Nancy Meyers’s “It’s Complicated.” His character Adam is extremely bland, to put it nicely, and viewers only see his real personality after he partakes in smoking weed with Streep’s uptight Jane. Adam, though a central element to the story, is unmemorable to the audience and, apparently, Jane, alike.

Things in Jane’s life, however, were looking up. That is, until her son’s college graduation, where one pinot noir too many leads to a drunken hookup with Jake. Trying to relive the glory days of their youth and their marriage, the two then begin planning clandestine meetings in various locales. Seems like Jane has a choice to make – Adam or Jake? This is where Alec Baldwin, a man known for playing the highly amusing Jack Donaghy on the hit show “30 Rock,” shows his comedic chops.

Though clearly a man going through some sort of mid-life crisis, Jake is somewhat well-intentioned; torn between his new wife and the mother of his children. Praise needs to be given to Meyers, who also wrote “It’s Complicated,” as she kept the situation extremely amusing. Baldwin is completely on-point with his comedic timing, and with a few swarthy looks, he keeps the audience amused throughout the majority of the film. If only Steve Martin could have taken a few tips from him.

As great as the two major stars were, John Krasinski steals the show. As Harley, the fiancé of Jane and Jake’s oldest daughter, this “The Office” star holds the audience in the palm of his hand. Where Jake can be a cad, Jane sometimes comes off as whiny or stiff, and viewers have already forgotten about Adam, Harley is lovable and hilarious. As the one who uncovers the tryst, Harley too has a central role in this kooky family. It would have been nice if Harley had some more scenes, not because the character was undeveloped, more so because he’s obviously a fan-favorite.

On a more technical note, the scenes were just right – not choppy, simple camera work, believable settings. Even the soundtrack and score were just right for “It’s Complicated,” giving it that generic romantic-comedy feel.

However, “It’s Complicated” is no generic movie. There is no 20-something leading lady trying to find love in a city, a plotline that’s been played out one too many times. Instead, a seasoned, classic actress shows a mature, normal woman that everyone knows, who’s just trying to do the best thing for her children, while coming to the realization that she needs to live her own life.

“It’s Complicated” is all about life choices and trying to keep some control over a life that’s already significantly underway. There’s a sharp contrast between old and new, and the thought that maybe, even in America’s evolving society, maybe the newest model isn’t always the best fit. Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and John Krasinski amazingly manage to get this across in just under two hours, a message everyone should take to heart.

On second thought, after seeing the older version, a la Jake’s “come hither” scene, maybe the newest model isn’t so bad? But that’s for Jane to decide.

Kate MacDonald can be reached at kaitlynm@student.umass.edu.

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