(Universal) Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, John Krasinski, Lake Bell, Mary Kay Place, Rita Wilson, Alexandra Wentworth, Hunter Parrish, Zoe Kazan, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Emjay Anthony, Nora Dunn, Bruce Altman. Directed by Nancy Meyers
Life after divorce can be difficult. So can life after fifty. For a fifty-year-old divorced woman, creating an identity for yourself separate from the one created as a married woman can be an ongoing process.
Jane Adler (Streep) is a successful Santa Barbara bakery owner whose twenty-year marriage to her husband Jake (Baldwin) had ended ten years previously when he cheated on her. Jake wound up marrying Agness (Bell), the younger woman he’d cheated with and inheriting her son Pedro (Anthony), quite possibly the only five-year-old boy Marlo Thomas would punch in the face.
But Jane’s okay, having finally figured out how to live as a divorced woman. She has three adult children – Gabby (Kazan) who is the last to leave the house, Luke (Parrish) who has just graduated from college and Lauren (Fitzgerald) who is engaged to her boyfriend Harley (Krasinski) who has been accepted as “one of the family” already.
Through a convoluted set of circumstances, Jake and Jane wind up in a bar alone together and wind up drinking a lot of wine, do some dancing and end up in the sack. Jane is mortified at first but the attraction between her and Jake is undeniable. For his part, he has never really fallen out of love with his ex-life, especially since the marriage to his hormone-suffused new wife hasn’t turned out the way he thought it would.
Jane is very conflicted about her relationship with her ex, having become the other woman. Further muddying the waters is her architect Adam (Martin), a very nice guy who is helping her with a new addition to her rambling mansion overlooking the Pacific and to whom she has become seriously attracted to. She’s torn between her established relationship, which she isn’t sure is completely over, and the new one, which may hold the promise of something long-term.
Director Nancy Meyers has already explored middle-aged female sexuality in films like Something’s Gotta Give but she gets into the physical sexuality a little more here. Meyers, who also wrote and produced the movie, is becoming one of the more successful women in Tinseltown where female directors are rare.
Here, she has a great cast to work with and they deliver. Streep usually doesn’t play sexual, but she does it magnificently here. She’s a woman who is comfortable in her own skin, which is where her sexiness stems from. She is also not without her self-doubts, however, particularly about the rightness of her actions. Much of the movie revolves around her inner conflict about her relationship with Jake. She is used to be the one sacrificing for her husband and her kids; here she is doing something clearly for her own benefit and its something she’s not used to and not really comfortable with. That makes her pretty much every woman.
Baldwin has shown in “30 Rock” that he is a comic actor to be reckoned with and he continues his fine work here. His Jake is narcissistic, and prone to swaying in whatever direction the breeze is blowing. Like Streep’s Jane, you find yourself not able to really despise Baldwin’s Jake despite his objectionable actions.
While Steve Martin can play the nice guy in his sleep, he gets to let loose a little bit during a scene at a party where he and Jane get stoned. There, he reminds you that he is one of the best comic actors in the business and has been for 30 years. This is one of his best performances in recent memory.
One note about John Krasinski. Most of you have probably only seen him in “The Office” if at all, but he does exceptionally well here as the future son-in-law who always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and possessing of too much information about everything. He is likable and funny; he could well be the next breakout comedy star to emerge from television.
There is much implied nudity here (although no genitalia – female or male – are shown explicitly) and quite frankly, these aren’t the hardbodies that you usually see in intimate scenes. Still, that’s one of the things I liked about the movie – it’s not about hotties copulating but more like real people. While seeing Baldwin’s hairy, pudgy physique (or Streep’s pasty white skin) may not do anything for you, they are more like the people you would actually hook up with were you out there hooking up.
At the heart of the movie there is sweetness, enough that Da Queen took a bigger liking to this movie than I did. It also doesn’t end necessarily the way you’d think it would or even hope it does. Think of this as a romantic comedy that most of us can relate to, even if the circumstances that it depicts are far more complicated a situation than most of us will ever find ourselves in. In any case, those of you not willing to wait in line for Avatar or not inclined to see it at all might consider this an alternative for your holiday moviegoing.
REASONS TO GO: The script is deft and funny. Streep, Baldwin, Martin and Krasinski deliver the goods, acting-wise.
REASONS TO STAY: I’m not sure I needed to see Alec Baldwin nude, even with his vitals covered.
FAMILY VALUES: Some sexuality and drug use. You may want to think twice before allowing smaller children to see this.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Martin previously worked with Meyers on the Father of the Bride movies.
HOME OR THEATER: As with most romantic comedies, a big screen is not an absolute necessity.
FINAL RATING: 7/10
TOMORROW: Akeelah and the Bee