Monday, January 11, 2010

Reel Thoughts: The Ex-Files

Nancy Meyers obviously knows what women want … "women of a certain age", that is. The writer/director of What Women Want, Something’s Gotta Give and It’s Complicated has got to give her audience strong female leads with seemingly bottomless bank accounts, a screwy love life to sort out, and a clueless adult child (or three).

Oh, and there has to be an aging male chauvinist for our heroine to skewer... before the two fall madly in love. It’s no coincidence that both Something’s Gotta Give and It’s Complicated were once known as “Untitled Nancy Meyers Project,” since they could literally be different drafts of the same script. The former benefited from a superior plot and the chemistry between Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson, while the latter is all about Meryl.

Meryl Streep plays Jane, a successful Santa Barbara caterer and chef who 10 years ago suffered the indignity of having her husband Jake (Alec Baldwin) dump her for a younger woman (Lake Bell, drained of all beauty or charisma). Now, she is ready to live again, redesign her spacious villa and perhaps even date the nice architect (Steve Martin) who’s creating her dream kitchen. Of course, exes being what they are, Jake re-enters Jane’s life and bed and suddenly, she’s the "other woman". Meyers knows humor, so despite a curdled premise, hilarity ensues.

Streep commands the screen and plays Jane with such comfortable glee, you can’t help but love her and want to see everything work out. Meyers isn’t interested in a fair fight though, as Jake is right to want to flee his dragon wife and her devil child. Still, it’s fun to see a film filled with mature actors and fairly mature romantic complications. Martin is more prop than actual suitor, and both he and Baldwin look terrible throughout the film. But hey, maybe that’s “what women want,” too.

Meyers lucked out with Streep this time, but she will need to bring more than romantic wish fulfillment and obscenely affluent settings to her next “Untitled Project” if she expects another hit.

UPDATE: It's Complicated is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.


  1. "A curdled premise" is right, and I found it far from hilarious. This was my pick for the worst movie of 2009. Meryl should know better, even though she and John Krasinsky are great in it.

  2. Hey Rev, you're right. Meryl does know better. She knows that starring in a Nancy Meyers film where she is front and center and pursued by two "attractive" men in a film that women will love is a good career move. But I just think it was a lot of fun for her to play, so I had fun watching her. Plus, she gets to keep the house in the movie...LOL!

  3. And WORST movie of the year? I named at least 10 worse ones, and that was leaving out such crapfests like Push, Transformers 2, and any movie with "Movie" at the end of its title. I can understand not liking it, but it's weird that you hate it. Of course, I hate Avatar and apparently everyone on earth loves that stinker!

  4. Oh Neily, all those dolls you've been taking have clouded your judgment. ;) I'll admit there were schlockier movies released last year, most of which I wisely avoided. But that made this movie all the more disappointing. I don't "hate" it (hate is such a strong word) but it was the lowest-rated of all the movies I saw last year when it came time for tabulating. And you aren't the only one who hates "Avatar"; the Vatican is dissing it big-time!


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