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THE KID STAYS OUT OF THE PICTURE: Grand dame Meryl Streep soaks it up while funny boy Alec Baldwin waits to be of service in 'It's Complicated.'

Streep Lights

Nancy Meyers hews to romcom traditions in triangular affair with Streep, Baldwin and Martin

By Richard von Busack

IN SANTA BARBARA, Jane (Meryl Streep), a successful restaurateur, hooks up with her ex-husband Jake (Alec Baldwin), despite the fact that Jake is married to a younger woman. Meanwhile, a shy, sad sack of an architect, Adam (Steve Martin), also shows some interest in her. It's Complicated serves its core audience well—women of a certain age who wouldn't be caught dead at Avatar. Certainly, classic-era romcom bones are visible under the expensive skin of Nancy Meyers' newest, and she had the inspiration to make Martin into Ralph Bellamy, not to mention making Alec Baldwin into Jack Nicholson.

Commentators often note the rich staging in Meyers' films, largely because there isn't enough going on in the foreground. The film may flaunt chocolate croissants and croque monsieurs and in several other ways indicate French farce as its source, but it's about as French as French's mustard.

Meyers (Something's Gotta Give, What Women Want) puts the solidly practical, American view of what the kids will think of this affair (even though the kids are grown up). And Meyers frets over the possibility of offending the sensibilities of the audience; Jake's injured spouse, Agness with an extra "s," is portrayed as a harpy. Lake Bell plays Agness, and Meyers photographs this powerful-looking woman's teeth and jaw to make Bell appear as ruthless as Burt Lancaster.

Baldwin's low-down comedy is delightfully uninhibited; the man will do anything for a laugh, including pants-down jokes. It's strange, though, to see Meyers' vision of what it's like when an older woman gets romantic: a reversion to girlhood with loads of consumption of chocolate. (Even bearing in mind that eating sweets is a metaphor for sex in the movies, there's a lot of it going on here.)

Jane's good points are her ability to cook and to cultivate very expensive real estate, but this doesn't involve what most of us men really like in women past 40—the wisdom, for one thing, and the lack of coquetry. The movie has its moments, including a pretty hilarious marijuana-smoking scene, but It's Complicated is overly complicated—it lasts too long, and it ends with an audible thud.

IT'S COMPLICATED (R; 118 min.), directed and written by Nancy Meyers, photographed by John Toll and starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, plays countywide.

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