A cheap, uninspired movie critic will utilize the movie’s title in the review in a desperate attempt to seem witty. Take for instance, “Funny People really has funny people in it!” Ha ha!
Well, It’s Complicated is, well, it’s freakin’ complicated. Sorry. Jane (Meryl Streep) is divorced from Jake (Alec Baldwin), who left her for a younger woman. However, Jake and Jane still have a spark, a complication since Jane is now falling for Adam (Steve Martin), her architect. Jake and Jane had three kids together, still hurt from the broken marriage, and Jake’s new wife has a five-year old.
Thankfully, Jon Krasinski is on hand to showcase the audience’s reaction to all of this. He plays the soon-to-be husband of Jane’s daughter Lauren (Caitlin Fitzgerald). He knows Jane is considering getting back together with her with her ex, but can’t bring himself to tell anyone.
Cue a series of hilarious antics, including the reason many people refuse to webcams in any capacity, and you have a priceless laugh-fest aided by a cast who sells every role. Streep is fantastic, selling the awkwardness of sitting next to her ex in a bar during their first meeting alone in some time. Add in a little alcohol, and the mood changes; they begin dancing, laughing, and living it up. It is the definition of screen chemistry.
Who knew Streep could play a convincing stoner too? During a graduation party, she shares a joint with Steve Martin, both of them going completely out of their minds while the college-aged kids around them seem completely normal. It doesn’t matter who she stands next to or whether or not she is high. Streep is completely believable, adding an air of realism to the role.
It’s Complicated does not follow the current Hollywood romantic comedy flow. You know, where the couple meets, falls in love, has a break-up, and then the guy comes running back against all odds to make amends? That is not It’s Complicated. This film is all over the place, questioning whether or not what Jane is doing is right. They go through a series of ups and downs, not just a large one to set up the finale.
Maybe it ends where the audience expects it too. Granting mercy points to the film for the predictability is easy since the ride to get there, especially in the second hour, is loaded with awkward confrontations, pot jokes, and Alec Baldwin’s naked butt. He’s a brave, brave man.
Universal’s VC-1 encode for the film opens on some jaw-droppingly beautiful photography of the California coast. The light grain structure is inoffensive, and staggering levels of detail are noticeable across the frame. Trees dot the landscape between the homes, each of them fully defined. Waves crashing into the shore carry a gorgeous mist, and the intensity of the blue sky is spectacular.
It’s Complicated carries a heavy warm tint, making flesh tones appear slightly orange, although not offensively so. Consider it a deep tan. While the color maintains its intensity, high fidelity detail is not as consistent. The first 20-minutes or so make the actors faces appear flat, lacking any distinct texture. Streep’s face can appear noticeably smoothed, readily apparent as her and Baldwin are in the kitchen at 49:28:18. The comparison is a matter of what this transfer is capable of compared to the digital manipulation (likely of the digital intermediate) that causes problems throughout.
The transfer is reasonably sharp, offering exceptional depth and dimensionality. Black levels are deep, rich, and bold throughout. Never do they dip or lose their intensity. Some grain spikes notably break down as the encode fails to keep up. Once early at 10:04:06, the frame becomes littered with chroma noise. Later, past the hour mark at 1:12:36, during multiple edits to Streep’s close-ups in the same scene, the grain almost seems digitally added. Shots of Baldwin in the same sequence, while slightly soft, appear natural.
What this transfer does remarkably well though are environments. Including the opening frames mentioned above, any distance shot of trees, cities, or even indoors are spectacular. The establishing shot of Streep’s bakery at 7:44 is spectacular, resolving individual peanuts in their plastic containers. Late in the film (1:33:30), Streep is working in her garden, a scene so lush with plants, the veins on every leaf becomes fully resolved and visible. The dirt on the ground is rich down to individual pebbles. It’s a shame facial detail is not as strong.
As a dialogue driven romantic comedy, It’s Complicated is given a DTS-HD mix with little to do. Dialogue is of course fine, clean and free of any distortion. It sits naturally in the track, never overwhelmed by music or well-done ambiance.
The highlights are undoubtedly the music. During a party, the DJ turns on the Beach Boys, filling the soundfield with spectacularly clear music. “Wouldn’t it Be Nice” has never sounded like this. Lyrics are smooth, instruments distinct, and the bleed into the surrounds perfect for the necessary immersion.
Every song carries the same level of fidelity. The low-end produces wonderfully clean bass lines, especially during the restaurant dancing sequence. A late thunderstorm before the credits roll is also allowed to work the sub a little bit, a clasp of thunder producing a marginally notable jolt, while the crisp rain falls in each channel.
A 20-minute standard making-of runs through all of the details these typical bonuses cover (casting, praise, the shoot, etc.). A commentary from writer/director Nancy Meyers, executive producer Suzanne Farwell, director of photography John Toll, and editor Joe Hutshing provides better details on the film’s origins (and completion). BD-Live support, Universal’s generic splash page only, remains.