"It's Complicated" isn't, really: At its core, it's another glossy rom-com about a woman dithering in an unhealthy relationship while another, better, meeker suitor waits in the wings. That said, the movie's anchored by a strong lead performance and a steady sense of humor.
The "complication" is that the unhealthy relationship is a secret affair between a fiftysomething hottie (Meryl Streep) and her ex-husband (Alec Baldwin). (Baldwin's current spouse is the woman he cheated on Streep with a decade earlier, so I guess that makes it ... funny?) The fellow in the wings is an architect played by Steve Martin.
Writer/director Nancy Meyers ("The Holiday," "Something's Gotta Give," the "Father of the Bride" remakes) has cornered the market on magazine-spread filmmaking. As David Poland recently wrote, "She has great taste in actors and furniture." Her movies create comfy Martha Stewart universes that perpetuate a myth of upper-middle-class luxury in which Streep and Baldwin can play hooky from their undemanding, high-paying jobs to meet in a hotel for a lunchtime tryst and room service.
I've become quite allergic to this sort of thing (though I'm fond of the Kate Winslet half of Meyers' "The Holiday"), but Streep makes it fairly palatable with her sexy, relaxed star turn. She's great at zigging when other actors would zag -- for example, bursting into nervous laughter at the sheer ridiculous horribleness of her affair rather than doing more on-the-nose fretting. Baldwin doesn't fare as well; though he's fun to watch, his performance is oddly uncomfortable, like he's trying to shake his Jack Donaghy character but can't.
That said, if you like this sort of magazine spread, this is probably the sort of magazine spread you're going to like.
(118 min., rated R for some drug content and sexuality) Grade: C-plus
'It's Complicated' (The Oregonian, Friday, Dec. 25, 2009)