Meryl Streep continues the foodie phase of her career in "It's Complicated," a cloying, self-satisfied, occasionally funny farce about an extramarital affair between formerly married fiftysomethings. Writer-director Nancy Meyers' latest survey of the travails of the rich and pampered boasts a clever central premise and an enjoyably self-effacing comic turn by Alec Baldwin. But Streep, playing the best cook to hit Santa Barbara since Julia Child died there, laughs a lot more than the audience will, which is not a good thing. Universal should ring up solid holiday biz from a glossy confection that will find its most responsive audience among women of a certain age on girls' nights out.
Set in that bicoastal world known best to showbiz folk of perfectly appointed California homes and first-class New York hotels, where characters' only concerns are their own neuroses and libidos, "It's Complicated" spins on the not-unthinkable idea that a relationship that withered and died over years of distrust, children and routine could suddenly revive again under illicit circumstances.
The situation at the outset has upscale bakery owner-chef Jane Adler (Streep) seeing the last of her three kids off to college and, with more contentment than apprehension, facing life alone in her sprawling hacienda. But the graduation of her middle child occasions a family gathering in Gotham that includes former hubby Jake (Baldwin), a gregarious live wire who, at nearly 60, has a young sex-bomb wife, Agness (Lake Bell), and a 5-year-old stepson. An amusing early gambit has Jane and Jake encountering one another at a medical building where she's gone to see a plastic surgeon and he's visiting a fertility clinic.
In New York, however, a few drinks together lead the twosome, who have been divorced for 10 years, to do the nasty. Baldwin is a hoot enthusing about his reconquest, a cat-that-ate-the-canary grin on his face as he raves about how hot his ex-wife is, while Jane is both flushed and aghast at what she's done, even as she later kvells to her egging-on girlfriends about how naughty she's been.
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