Like all Nancy Meyers movies, It's Complicated is the stuff lady boners are made of (or at least, this lady's boner)... house porn, high-powered jobs, adoring children, and oceanfront views. Jane (Meryl Streep) lives in a gorgeous, sprawling house in Santa Barbara (really in Thousand Oaks - peep it here) with a kitchen I would trade my first born child for. And get this - she's building an addition and remodeling the kitchen because it only has two stoves, and apparently that's not sufficient. Bitch is crazy.
If you do a Google search for "It's Complicated Nancy Meyers," four of the top ten results focus on the house/kitchen. There are pieces in Architectural Digest, Vogue, and Elle Decor that are devoted to the crazy/beautiful houses and sets featured in Meyers' films. If you're somehow a Nancy Meyers n00b, these photos should give you an idea of what you're getting yourself into:
^ The kitchen from It's Complicated. It has a breakfast bar, two ovens, and lots of open shelving. What the fuck else could you possibly need?
^ The kitchen from The Intern (2015). That subway tile! Those light fixtures! Swoon. Oh, and it also has a fireplace. I'll never be rich enough to have a kitchen like this in Park Slope. I might as well go kill myself right now because my dreams are dead.
^ The kitchen from Something's Gotta Give (2003). Even with the dated countertops and ugly lighthouse art, this kitchen is still inspirational. Plus, it's in Southampton, so sacrifices could be made for locale.
Nancy Meyers films are basically like your dream Pinterest board or lifestyle Instagram come to life. They are aspirational af and will make you wish you made more money. If you're curious about which Nancy Meyers kitchen suits you best, take this quiz.
Best time to watch:
When you've had three glasses of Prosecco and are feeling delightfully buzzed and in the mood to watch Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, and Meryl Streep get stoned and dance to The Beach Boys.
When you're home for the weekend and vegging out on the couch with your mom, who happens to be a romcom aficionado. For the record, It's Complicated is not one of Joni Pugh's favorites. She does like it, but compared to 10 Things I Hate About You, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, and The Devil Wears Prada, it is hot garbage. Those films are CANON.
When you've had a bad day and need the film equivalent of comfort food.
Worst time to watch:
I could watch this movie anytime, any place. I guess you probably shouldn't watch it with someone you're trying to impress. And definitely don't watch it when you have the mental capacity for something better. Whenever I'm feeling especially depressed, I tend to put on something I've seen 5,000x (why do you think I have 99.9% of the Gilmore Girls dialogue memorized?) and let it run in the background while I dick around on my computer or do some other form of multitasking. This film is perfect for those down days, where you need some lighthearted background noise and maybe a flash of Alec Baldwin's butt cheeks. (Sidenote: Alec Baldwin apparently used a butt double for this scene. I feel cheated.)
Where to watch:
Rent it on Amazon or iTunes. I'm sure you could also find a slightly dusty DVD copy at any estate sale in the Midwest or in a cardboard box on a Brooklyn stoop. This is the type of movie that someone is always trying to give away. Harsh? Yes. True? Also yes.
Jane (Streep) lives alone in a beautiful house in Santa Barbara. She's been divorced for 10 years and her children are nearly all grown up and ready to start their own lives. Based on her dinner party conversation with Joanne (Mary Kay Place), Trisha (Rite Wilson), and Diane (Alexandra Wentworth), Jane is doing alright but still feels lonely and hasn't had sex in forever. When she and her ex-husband Jake (Alec Baldwin) go to NYC for their son Luke's (Hunter Parrish) graduation and end up meeting at the bar alone, they throw caution to the wind and have a night of drunk sex that turns into a longer affair. Everything is going great until Jane meets Adam (Steve Martin), the cute, divorced architect who is in charge of orchestrating her (ridiculously unnecessary) home addition project.
First off, I should probably mention that I admire Nancy Meyers and am glad she's still making films. She's probably the most successful female director in Hollywood, with films regularly surpassing $200 million in worldwide revenue. An interview with The Guardian mentions that when she was making her first film, Private Benjamin (1980), "the studio wrote into her contract that she must never be alone on set without her male co-producers." That requirement would have angered me so deeply that I would have garroted everyone involved with its inclusion. Years later, after several successful films under her belt, I hope Nancy Meyers sent a picture of herself, swimming in her 'fuck you' money like Scrooge McDuck, to the studio execs who drafted that wildly offensive contract.
In a world where Fast & Furious 8 exists, Nancy Meyers should not have to apologize for making films that are commercially viable. She constantly receives criticism about how her films are fluffy and lacking substance:
"A cinematic widget product from expert extruder Nancy Meyers ("What Women Want," "Something's Gotta Give"), this overproduced romantic comedy doesn't even qualify as fluff; it's flat, featureless plastic."
"Something’s Gotta Give is relatively painless for its first hour, with absolutely no help from writer-director Nancy Meyers’s generic sitcom camera placements, mind-numbing musical choices, and overtly phony-baloney cutesiness in every tin-eared line of dialogue."
"Does Nancy Meyers hate women? The thought ran through my head not very long into It's Complicated, Meyers's biennial stocking-stuffer about the romantic trials and tribulations of obscenely privileged and narcissistic Southern Californians."
Are these assholes serious? Nancy Meyers creates beautiful, rose-tinted escapist films for women in the same way that Michael Bay creates testosterone laden explosion films for men. Both directors are acutely aware of their demographic and cater to it because it's how they make their money, duh. I constantly feel like critics approach Nancy Meyers films with an astounding level of ignorance...like they've never seen one before and aren't aware of her shtick. Of course her films are unrealistic, hyper-consumerist, and sort of cutesy. What's the point of mentioning it in every single review? It's not as if she set out to achieve something radically different and failed. Meyers knows what works/what people want and she gives it to them - just like Michael Bay, Paul Greengrass, Bryan Singer, etc.
So why exactly do I like this movie? Here's my laundry list of reasons:
- The cast. Alec Baldwin, Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, and John Krasinski are all fantastic. Nancy Meyers consistently works with some of the best actors and actresses in Hollywood.
- The scene where Meryl Streep and Steve Martin smoke pot, dance, and then go to her bakery and make chocolate croissants. Best stoner date ever! This movie is worth watching for that scene alone. Roger Ebert says, "And while it can be funny when a respectable lady gets stoned on pot, it's difficult for even Streep to make it funny for 10 minutes." Sorry, Ebert, but I politely disagree.
- The script is sharp and contains many memorable one-liners that made me lol
- It's a story that's not often told in Blockbuster films - about older people, post-divorce and children. Even if this one is pretty unrealistic, who cares? I'm just happy to see people in their 50s who still have lives/fun.
And here are some things I didn't like:
- Jane's children. As this comment from the AV Club so aptly stated, they're "freaky as fuck" and every scene with them is like "an episode of 7th heaven on roids." I never thought Zoe Kazan was that annoying until I saw this movie.
- The fact that Jane isn't hungover at her son's graduation after her alcohol-fueled fuckfest with Jake. I'm only 27 and if I drank to the point of vomiting, I would probably be dead the next day.
- Not enough Steve Martin.
- The fact that it took 30+ minutes before I realized that Harley (Krasinski) was Jane's daughter's fiancé, not her other son. The Alder family dynamics are bizarre and uncomfortable.
- Jane's shrink is horrible. He's basically like, "Yeah, why not... you deserve to have this affair."
If you want to read more about Nancy Meyers, check out this NYT article by Daphne Merkin. Although many critics write Meyers off and shit talk her films, I'm happy to say that most of the NYT coverage is pretty fair and aware of the genre/auteur.