What is the core theme driving Nancy Meyer’s latest sitcom-y bonbon, It’s Complicated? It’s simple: aging yuppies need love, and sex, too. Here, the sexual and emotional equation gets into some complicated romantic math, what with the “affair” between Jane (Meryl Streep) and her ex-husband, Jake (Alec Baldwin). Lurking in the bushes of the story is another, more recently divorced party, architect Adam (Steve Martin).
Meyers’s filmography may be an acquired taste this critic clearly has not acquired. Her latest falls in line with Something’s Gotta Give and What Women Want, as a gift bag of smarmy sentimentality spiked with a few hilarious bits and a feel-good aura.
It has been said that Streep could read the phone book and infuse it with dramatic worth, and she certainly rose to great heights this year as Julia Child, but she can’t do much with the meager material supplied here. A funny stigma hovers around Baldwin’s sleazy-charmer performance, but those who know him from TV’s 30 Rock may have a hard time accepting him on the big screen. Steve Martin puts in one of his bland, rent-paying performances. No wild and crazy guy business here, except when carnality and cannabis are introduced into the system.
Apart from the relative merits and demerits of Meyers’s latest chocolate croissant of a movie, proud Santa Barbarans-and there’s an army of us-should feel slighted by the liberties taken by this supposed “Santa Barbara story.” We’re tired of Hollywood people blowing through town and reinventing our city to suit their narrative needs. We’ve put up with gaffes in the past: the wrong-way drive through Gaviota Pass in The Graduate, a fiesta parade in De la Guerra Plaza in the otherwise fantastic Cutter’s Way. In Meyers’s film, we get a Farmers Market in the Sunken Gardens, a mysterious French Film Festival in town, and El Paseo renamed the Santa Barbara Medical Building.
It’s not as if Santa Barbara is an obscure Midwestern backwater that can be glibly toyed with. (No offense to Midwestern backwater towns.) These gross violations of verisimilitude can’t go by unnoticed or unpunished. Even Oprah should be up in arms.