It's Complicated, or is it?

by Meredith O’Brien

 

The weekend after Christmas, my best friend from college – who’s been married nearly as long as I have and who also has three kids around the same ages as my trio – went to see It’s Complicated, the comedy starring the Golden Globe-nominated Meryl Streep, and which snagged two other nominations for best comedy and best screenplay.

 

Seeing that my friend and I are in our late thirties and early forties, respectively, and are smack dab in the middle of the messy, wonderfully insane work of raising kids, I thought it would be interesting for us to see a depiction of Streep’s Jane Adler, as a late fiftysomething mother of grown children whose career as the owner of a bakery/restaurant is blossoming after having been divorced for 10 years following the break-up of her 19-year marriage, obliterated in the wake of her husband’s affair with a much-younger woman.

 

And, as you may have already gathered from the ubiquitous movie trailers, Streep’s ex-husband Jake Adler (played by Alec Baldwin) has decided that his marriage to said younger woman Agness (the same woman who broke up his first marriage) -- who’s insisting that Jake accompany her to the infertility clinic to have another baby, in addition to her 5-year-old by another man -- isn’t working out as Jake planned. Jane and Jake commence an affair, which is delicious revenge for Jane who’s now seen as the smoldering, confident sexy one while her ex’s wife (played by Lake Bell) is now the one who’s seen as the nagging spouse who’s always calling him on the phone and burdening the put-upon husband with unglamorous domestic duties.

 

On the one hand, I delighted in seeing the beautiful sixtysomething Streep starring as the desirable, smart, fun-loving Jane who’s fought over by both Jake and her architect who wants to date her (played by Steve Martin). In the end, Jane winds up being the empowered one. Fantastic.

 

But as my gal pal and I left the theater, we had different responses to the film, aside from our wild admiration for Streep and Baldwin. My friend found it interesting – dare I say, inspiring -- to see how, now that Jane’s three children are all out of the house, she’s flourishing. She’s having her house expanded to add her dream kitchen and a new bedroom which will provide her with a view of the ocean, courtesy of the success of her business. The bakery/café she owns and runs is gorgeous and packed with customers, apparently doing as well as Jane in her post-divorce existence. Now that Jane and Jake’s kids are grown, she got her life back. All of these are good things, things to look forward to, the notion that there’s a very full life to be had after the kids leave the nest.

 

navyphim
02.25.10

I think Jake was just freaked out at the thought of having another child and going through it all again... sex becomes a chore, and one that can result in something he doesn't want.

i see the theme that illicit sex is hot, with a younger woman or an older woman, i.e, ex-wife that you have tossed over for a younger one.

MarcomMom
02.10.10

These are very good questions, and I would *like* to think that the reason Jake doesn't find Agness attractive is because she's very cold and controlling, not because she's tired and wearing black socks.

sheila.at.life360
01.18.10

My male hairdresser once asked me how I want my hair blow dried. Just make it sexy I said. He leaned down and whispered in my ear, sexy is all in the attitude. He's right, and I've kept that in mind ever since. Parenthood can be hard, but that doesn't mean we can't have fun, laugh, and be sexy. Why wait until the kids are gone for that? Playful goes a long way. And if you're too tired for that, then find some ways take care of yourself so you can laugh more. It's a stress reliever.

ras25
01.07.10

While the revenge of sleeping with the husband who left you for another woman may be hard to resist, there is a bigger issue. Our society today condones and almost expects cheating. Too much instant satisfaction. Your husband or wife isn't in the mood, find someone who is. Nevermind, the love and commitment. Life and love are a struggle - not a constant party. I think this also falls into the "don't know what you got until it's gone," category. In the movie, the ex-husband seems like a putz, and after experiencing the pain of a divorce = I, for one, would not give him the satisfaction or the means to inflict that pain on another woman. Morally, we all know cheating is wrong. People need to think of other people besides themselves all the time. As for being or feeling sexy, it doesn't matter what age or what stage in life, we can all be sexy - we owe it to ourselves to be sexy. A real man is a man that takes care of his responsibilities, not one that runs from them.

Hudsmom
01.06.10

I know you thought you had a really intelligent thought in your previous post PFL, but you missed it. I don't have to wait for the kids to be grown, as a married career woman with kids I'm sexy now. Black socks or not!
Peace

Nobiwan
01.05.10

I haven't seen this film and I probably won't, but my reactions to the article are multiple.

Motherhood is hard - if it wasn't, men would do it. Think about it, we don't as a culture refer to fatherhood with the same reverence, and why not? Because men don't do the childrearing, traditionally, so it never seems quite so shocking when they flit off to the sexier woman when the going gets a little tough. It's that old double-edged sword again - if a woman were to do that, well, she would be the worst sort of woman in the world.

An interesting flip side, though, is that while at first he goes from worn out mom to the younger, sexier model, he later turns away from the young, sexy mama to his much older, and presumably less firm and toned, ex-wife. Why? Because it's not about the body so much as it's about avoiding responsibility.

I would love for someone to make a movie like this where the gender roles were completely reversed. Let's have a bunch of stay at home dads getting screwed over by their inconsiderate, tail-chasing, business executive wives.

I don't think this was the message she meant to send. I think she's stuck in a culture where it isn't that far of a stretch, and she just had a funny take on it. Couldn't the larger message also have been that Baldwin's character had two perfectly decent wives and screwed it up twice, cuz he's just a putz? I think maybe so.

PFL
01.04.10

Unfortunately, everyone is generalized at some point. Mothers who wear black socks to bed and who nag a lot *are* unsexy. Just as the girlfriend who helps her boyfriend splurge on unnecessary toys becomes a drag once she's a wife with a vested interest in his finances, the sexy young wife who is continuously available for erotic fun becomes unsexy when her primary focus moves from her husband to the crying bundle of joy in the next room. It's life. Not fair maybe, but that's how it is. As a childless married woman, I get the condescending stares and comments from the Mommy-crowd. We all get to wear our own stereotype. Don't sweat it. Someday your kids will be grown and living on their own and you can be sexy again too -- if it's that important to you. Like my refrigerator magnet says, "Bloom where you're planted," and stop worrying about everyone else.