Archive for the ‘Steve Martin’ Category

It’s Complicated

08 Nov

It’s Complicated — Directed and Written by Nancy Meyers. Sex Farce. A divorced couple gets it on. 120 minutes Color 2009

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Meryl Streep is a great actress, but she is not a Leading Lady. What she is is a Character Lead. Cast as a Leading Lady, as she sometimes is and as she is here, she cannot carry a film. She gives all that smiles and laughter have to offer to the part she plays here, but the soul of her gift is not in it. To be a leading lady one has to have a certain material substance, even a quirk of voice will do, such as Jean Arthur had, such as Katherine Hepburn had. One has to be a personality actress such as Diane Keaton or Goldie Hawn are. Meryl Streep’s affect is milky, wanting in strength, she has no defining attributes. So when she plays a Leading Lady character she is playing something close to her own everyday voice, and it lacks interest, bite, depth, intensity, and color. She’s just not that sort of actor, no fault of her own. Very few actors can do both sorts of things. Leonardo de Caprio is another example of this same problem. Cast him in Blood Diamond or Celebrity and you really have something. Cast him in Aviator and you have nothing. The problem of the picture, however, does not lie solely with Meryl Streep. The piece begins as a sophisticated, witty, sex farce, a la Ernst Lubitsch, well-written and well set up. But as soon as the children appear prominent it collapses. It is not the actors’ fault. They are simply not needed as story elements, and the writing of their parts is feeble, causing the playing of the parts to be also feeble. The more they are given in the film the less the film becomes. This is partly because the writer conceives them as TV sitcom children, and partly because she flushes the story down with them in an excrement of sentimentality. Alex Baldwin, as Meryl Streep observes, commandeers the film away from Steve Martin, but that is a directorial and writing error. Baldwin is very funny as the ex-husband, but once it becomes obvious that he is grossly, if endearingly, self-involved the writing of his part becomes repetitious and Streep’s becomes improbable, since her character does not act on the obvious. The writing of the Steve Martin character is flaccid; since he is supposed to be the good, sensitive guy, the part is stripped of wit, and Martin is reduced to clowning in the shadows. As the film declines in interest, what with the improbable behavior of the children and the lack of competitive edge for Martin, it also collapses on the interesting matter of this post-marital affair, reducing the escapade into exploring rationales for it. Streep is not enlarged by the affair once it is over. She is deflated by it. It is an error in judgment all around. The problem is not with the direction or filming here, which is frequently interesting. The problem is that the director needed a co-writer as a corrective to keep what begins in generating our delight from ending up generating our disgust.


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