Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

It's not uncomplicated. . .


”There's a surprising fondness for the double negative in It's Complicated, starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. Consider it a grammatical hint that things will get a bit messy,” said the Denver Post’s Lisa Kennedy.

I mention that because I’ve been getting a lot of heat for grammatical quirks, including my love of the double negative. Which isn’t about anything if it’s not about the notion that life is complicated.

Of course I loved It’s Complicated.  It’s a shrewdly targeted bit of whimsy by and for women my age. As critic Michael O’Sullivan pointed out, “Women of a certain age are going to love that. They won't know which is sexier: that Jane is lusted over by two handsome suitors or that she's finally getting her dream kitchen.”

The story: Jane is a wildly successful yet impossibly charming and down-to-earth baker of posh pastry for the residents of Santa Barbara (who, being professionally thin, must buy it as kitchen props, not food). Her three children are in the last stages of nest leaving. She’s been divorced for 10 years from wildly successful yet charming, earthy if not down-to-earth lawyer Jake (Baldwin). He left her for Angess (Lake Bell) of the tight abdomen who is Much Younger, Hotter, and More Challenging. And with absolutely no observable other good qualities at all. Which is really quite satisfying for those of us whose character is better than our bodies.

Still, some male critics say “get real” when Jake finds himself irresistibly drawn back to Jane. But we know why.  Who wouldn’t love Streep and her astonishing, wonderful food? Certainly Steve Martin, who plays a nice guy so quiet and self-contained that I can’t remember his character’s name, does.

You know the screwball comedy routine. Jake, the scalliwag, pursues Jane the way he probably did when they were 23 and in Paris. Aside from being much more sexually generous and fulfilling than Angess, which of course is totally true about older women (in this case, same-age women), Jane has the perfect house even though she feels the need to make it more perfect (that’s where Martin’s character, the architect, comes in).

And it’s quiet. No demanding wife and horribly behaved child named Pedro around.

(Apparently Agness, whose biological clock is still ticking, cuckolded Jake five years earlier, so now she gets to yell “YO!” at Jake and order him to put the adorable yet unpleasant offspring of that affair to bed while she works on her laptop. This part doesn’t make any sense except as part of the long and never successful Karmic process of beating some awareness into Jake. And to set the stage for another laptop scene. But you’ll have to see the movie for that.)

Anyway, the question is what does Jane want, besides a kitchen that is beyond imagining fabulous, witty loyal friends to drink chardonnay with,  the love of her successful and pretty if tremulous children, and the joy of making scads of money baking beautiful food for rich people?

Her old husband, renewed in his lust for her and longing for an easier, more comfortable life? Or a new relationship in uncharted territory?

If you’ve watched any romantic comedies, you know the answer. The one with whom you have the most delightful repartee, the one with the strong chemistry, is the right one.

But maybe not.

There’s much to laugh about. Baldwin is as delightful as Streep, and so is the son-in-law to be, played by John Krasinski. Even the cheap shots—the dazed but well-groomed older men and their pouting young wives in the fertility clinic—have enough truth to be worth the laughter they elicit.

Those who hate it complain about its lack of depth. I think there’s enough there for a romantic comedy if you want to find it.  It’s a middle-aged wish-fulfillment movie, to be sure. But what’s wrong with that? Sit back and enjoy the ride. Laugh. And imagine finding love again if you've lost it, fabulous windows if you haven't.

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