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'It's Complicated,' with Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, keeps audience's estrogen level in mind

Peep Show is an amusing short film from a few years ago that kept popping into my head while watching the new movie It's Complicated. • In Peep Show, a woman goes to one of those seedy establishments where voyeurs pay by the minute to get their jollies from strangers in other rooms. Usually they're watching stripteases, but this woman pays for a fully dressed man making her hot by complimenting her new hairdo, offering to go shopping for linens, that sort of thing. • The woman's passion for hearing such words from a man increases with each payment. Finally she goes for the $50 treatment. The window slides open, the man coaxes her ardor then sends her into gasping ecstasy with the words: "Have you lost weight?" Window shuts. End of movie. • It's Complicated works on the same dynamic, which means that women seeking reassurance that good men still exist — and bad ones aren't too bad, either — will love this movie. It's written and directed by Nancy Meyers, who also directed What Women Want and certainly knows.

Exhibit A: Jane Adler (Golden Globe nominee Meryl Streep) is a divorcee living in a lovely garden home she's planning to double in size including the kitchen, which already looks like Rachael Ray's set. Jane owns a chic bakery, has three grown children and a son-in-law who love her dearly, and she can link online to Skype without their help. Her architect and perhaps new boyfriend, Adam (Steve Martin), says things like, "Your age is one of my favorite things about you."

That would be $100 minimum in Peep Show.

Jane also has her ex-husband, Jake (Golden Globe nominee Alec Baldwin), sniffing around, dissatisfied with his trophy wife (Lake Bell) and seeking reconciliation, one one-night stand at a time. Jane becomes the "other woman" replacing a younger one, and if you think real middle-aged women don't dig that fantasy, then you weren't at a recent screening of It's Complicated with a bunch of them, as I was.

Good thing that Meyers has A-list actors reciting her grade-C screenplay that doesn't skip a stale joke about the situation, or a quip that isn't tinged with Harlequin paperback regret. It isn't funny that Jane and Adam have an extended sequence smoking pot, except that it's Streep and Martin playing stoned. Jake's romantic dithering works only because Baldwin behaves so supremely alpha male that he turns a dog role into a purebred comedy performance.

But Meyers always has the estrogen level of her audience in mind. The munchies that follow Jane and Adam's buzz inspire them to make chocolate croissants in her bakery (Streep's cooking lessons for Julie & Julia are handy here). And watching Baldwin proudly display his husky, hirsute body can make a hubby's at-home exhibitionism easier to handle.

Jane's sex life is breathtaking, her love life is promising, problems are managed and there's always that new kitchen to daydream about over blueprints and coffee with Adam.

And if I'm not mistaken, when the movie ends she has lost a little weight.

Steve Persall can be reached at persall@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at blogs.tampabay.com/movies.

It's Complicated

Grade: B-

Director: Nancy Meyers

Cast: Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, John Krasinski, Lake Bell, Mary Kay Place, Rita Wilson, Alexandra Wentworth

Screenplay: Nancy Meyers

Rating: R; drug content, profanity, sexual innuendo

Running time: 118 min.

'It's Complicated,' with Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, keeps audience's estrogen level in mind 12/23/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 24, 2009 9:45am]

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