Screen legends keep it simple

Meryl Streep can do no wrong. She’s cheated death (Death Becomes Her), reduced Anne Hathaway to a nervous wreck (The Devil Wears Prada) and chosen between her children (Sophie’s Choice) – whatever she does, she always pulls it off, repeatedly proving herself to be one of Hollywood’s finest leading ladies.

Despite hitting 60, Streep’s been enjoying a run of rom-coms, kicked off by her winning turn in smash Mamma Mia and continuing with gastronomic pleasure Julie & Julia. Nancy Meyer’s laugh-out-loud It’s Complicated completes a love trifecta, placing her in the middle of a triangle with fellow Hollywood stalwarts Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin.

Jane (Streep) is a loving mother-of-three and successful bakery owner, who after 10 years of separation, is finally “happily divorced” from attorney Jake (Baldwin), who left her for shinier, newer model Agness (Lake Bell).

In fact Jane and Jake are now on such good terms that they end up rediscovering their old magic, leading to Jane becoming her ex-husband’s “other woman”, a confusing situation the pair need to hide from their kids. And if things weren’t complicated enough, architect Adam (Steve Martin) has also fallen under Jane’s spell…

As the central object of affection, Streep is immensely likeable, and steers clear of the grating, screeching territory fellow romantic leading-lady-of-a-certain-age Diane Keaton often veered into. Jane is warm, self-effacing and oozes modest charisma, and it’s easy to see why Jake and Adam would fall for her.

Baldwin is his patented charming self as Jake, and he and Streep generate a comfortable chemistry that believably reflects a long-standing love. He provides most of the comedy, with his offbeat seduction techniques (stalking, accidental webcam striptease). There’s an element of sadness too as he’s seemingly trapped with a domineering wife and exhausting, disrespectful stepson. Meyers seems to making a point about men who “trade up” only to find it’s not what they wanted at all.

The biggest surprise is Martin, who is downright nuanced, a huge change from the broad comedy of recent outings like the Cheaper by the Dozen and The Pink Panther sequels. Adam, also recovering from divorce, is vulnerable, mature and sincere, offering Jane a taste of something new. It isn’t all straight-man for Martin though, a winning scene in the move in which Adam and Jane decide to cut loose allows the funny-man to come out – and the small dose makes it even more effective.

Adam also has palpable sparks with Jane, which makes the ménage-a-trois compelling. You’ll find it hard to decide who you want Jane to end up with – both men make convincing and charming cases for her attention.

Most of the supporting cast fade into scenery next to the three heavyweights, but of particular note is John Krasinski as Harley, Jane and Jake’s eldest daughter’s fiancé who accidentally gets swept up in the couple’s subterfuge. Harley adds a thread of laidback, good-hearted humor and feels like a real person whereas the other youngsters are rather cardboard.

Another element that prevents the film from coming down-to-earth is the hoity-toity backdrop, which seems to be the only world Meyers is familiar with – upper-middle-class, perfectly decorated homes, high-flying careers and premium education – and completely isolated from the global financial crisis.

However, the setting does provide an alluring escapism, best epitomized when Jane uses her luxurious bakery to make delicious treats for a lucky man.

It’s Complicated is actually rather simple – and all the better for it. It’s about second chances and sexiness at any age, and will have you clutching your sides as the trio of talented thespians play off one another perfectly.

Verdict: Three of Hollywood’s finest make this straightforward rom-com a delight for all ages.

It’s Complicated (Universal Pictures, 120 minutes)
Directed by Nancy Meyers
Produced by Nancy Meyers & Scott Rudin
Written by Nancy Meyers
Starring Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, Lake Bell, John Krasinsk
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