Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Falling in love, at any age, can come with a fair amount of complications. Having an affair, at any age, can also come with a fair amount of complexity.
Falling again for, and having an affair with, your ex-husband at middle age, while he is currently married to the younger woman he left you for – that’s complicated enough for one to bolt for the therapist.
As far as romantic-comedy premises go, this is a far better set-up then, say, witnessing a murder and being forced to go on the lam with your philandering ex-husband (Did You Hear About the Morgans?).
Here, under the watchful eye of director Nancy Meyers, the cheating ex is played by Alec Baldwin, the born-again woman of desire by Meryl Streep.
Both veteran actors display great range in tackling comedic and dramatic moments with conviction, and have been perfectly cast for this above-average ‘chick-flick’ rom-com.
Just as Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson confronted fear of aging and a fear for late-life romance, in particular the cliches that afflict both issues, in Meyers’ memorable 2003 film, Something’s Gotta Give, Streep and Baldwin deal with the aftermath of divorce.
Ten years after separation, just as emotional wounds have almost healed, Jake (Baldwin) and Jane Adler (Streep) are drawn to each other, under the initial influence of alchohol, on a trip to attend their son’s college graduation.
Now that the kids have grown, as well-adjusted as could have been hoped, and the two parents have an emptied nest, it’s the perfect time to resume their relationship, Jake reasons.
The sex is better, both parties are older and better able to reflect on why their marriage soured, and both feel the pangs of loneliness and mutual attraction. The moral dilemma is posed by Jake’s ongoing second marriage, which he blithely disregards amid their liaisons.
The strength of Meyers’ own script is in how it knowingly conveys realistic emotions by the two exes, as well Adam (Steve Martin), the pleasant architect divorcé who woos Jane, oblivious to her affair.
The principal characters reflect, vacillate, exalt, regret, feel exhilarated, embarrassed, then remorseful. It is a roller-coaster ride, and Meyers’ film captures all these inconsistent emotions with a tender affection.
Even the presumptive bad guy, Jake, a lawyer with a way with words and skilled in seduction, is generously layered and given time to tell his side of the story.
If anything, the only misgiving about this film could be how profoundly self-aware and articulate Jake and Jane are when they examine their predicament with clear eyes, after all their masks have been removed.
Apart from Baldwin and Streep, Martin deserves kudos for his restrained and endearing turn as a scared middle-aged newly-single who hasn’t had fun or a date for about 30 years.
Another cast deputy who deserves a nod is The Office’s John Krasinski, who shines as the nervous, gawky, well-meaning tall fiancé of one of the Adler daughters. He inadvertently observes the elder Adlers stealing away for an ‘afternoon delight’ and is saddled with a nail-biting secret, with charmingly comical results.
Meyers’ film may not be for everyone, but it surprised me with how well-thought-out and conscientiously put-together it was. It seldom reaches for the cheap laugh, and resounds with authenticity when it delves into the lifestyle and mindsets of its characters.
Human emotions and human relations can be very complicated in real life. With Meyers' film, this is all too true in cinematic life as well, in the rarely successful fusion of drama and comedy and middle-age blues.
About Yong Shu Chiang
Yong Shu Chiang, otherwise known as SC, is a freelance editor and writer. He reviewed movies for Juice magazine when he was in college, and was the resident film reviewer for Today Newspaper from 2003 to 2005. He has also reviewed movies for Prime Time Morning on Channel NewsAsia.
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