How lovely to see a romance and flirtation and obstacles in a comedy based on history and life connections rather than lumbar tattoos and skateboarding talent. Even lovelier is getting to see the funny and playful Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin emobdy a divorced couple circling each other, drawn by the heady scent of unfinished business. What an extra treat to see Steve Martin (in Serious Actor mode, mostly) orbiting their complex dance and do what he does so well: be charming and sincere.
After 10 years of being divorced, Streep is still awkward about Baldwin’s young, hot wife Lake Bell, but Meryl and Alec still have a wonderful comfort to them when Bell is not around. Streep is luminous and gorgeous, even more so than when she was in Mamma Mia — she’s a stronger romantic comedy contender than I have seen all year (sorry Sandy!). Baldwin is all gruff confidence and unaware selfishess, wheedling his wants out of his ex without a care in the world. Watching them together, you root for them, even knowing why they divorced. Watching Streep groove on her own empty nest self-actualization, you root for Martin to win her heart. Truth is, no one is probably good enough for this awesome woman, except her amazing house and her fantastic little clutch of friends (Rita Wilson, Mary Kay Place, and Alexandra Wentworth). Maybe.
Fun romantic comedy standard hijinks ensue, with some great extra funny supplied by John Krasinski, iChat, and a little mary jane. Characters are perpetually doing the math on the last time we… remember back in… they’ve been apart for… it started about X years ago… which keeps our historical perspective primed while we watch first-date-worthy giddiness muddle the heads of our leads. We get a strong sense of their history, one we become fond of without ever having experienced, and yet we also love Streep being finally happy for herself. Everyone is so freaking charismatic you almost forget to appreciate the great, adult story. It’s not an old person’s movie but it is an extremely enjoyable one that should be watched by second-bloom folks of all ages.
The kids of the divorce are a little fragile and flatly portrayed, as if the screenwriter/director Nancy Meyers can only imagine what it would be like to be a child of a divorced couple. How the tables have turned, youth culture! Now you’re the boring ones. For all the complicatedness of the emotions Streep and Baldwin navigate, it’s still a smooth ride to huge grins and hearty guffaws, with excellent performances.
MPAA R- some drug content and sexuality
Release date 12/25/09
Time in minutes
Director Nancy Meyers
Studio Universal Pictures