One could spend much time on the shortcomings of It’s Complicated, writer/director Nancy Meyers’ (Something’s Gotta Give) latest romantic comedy about the love lives of the middle-aged and wealthy. (This time the setting is Santa Barbara.) Its tone is out of synch with our recessionary times, its soundtrack seems lifted from a dentist’s office Muzak system, Meryl Streep gives a flighty performance that often feels light and slight and the young actors playing her kids appear to have been sedated. But forget all that: It’s Complicated has Alec Baldwin in full flower, hilariously rascally and poignantly tender, as chef Streep’s lawyerly ex-husband who starts a new affair with her when he becomes weary of his much-younger new wife’s demands upon him. Watching Baldwin tease, woo and seduce Streep, as he struts around the film throwing his mildly paunchy weight about like a peacock spreading its feathers, is a glory to behold. And when his character starts to panic when she begins to fall for the quieter and more stable architect played by Steve Martin, Baldwin shows his wounds, fears and anxieties. It’s one of this great character actor’s finest turns, and Meyers deserves credit for writing a satisfyingly deep, emotional arc into his role. When he’s not in the film, it slows. Martin, a fine comic actor himself, projects a borderline-dull sincerity in his scenes with Streep; it isn’t until a very funny sequence where they get stoned at a party that he cuts loose and comes alive. And there, he finally matches Baldwin in screen presence. But it comes late. The film’s point is that love and divorce are complicated. But there’s nothing complicated about why this movie is worth seeing: It’s Alec Baldwin. Grade: B
Opens Dec. 25. Check out theaters and show times, see more photos from the film and get theater details here.