Sunday, January 3, 2010
It's Complicated ... A Review
"Remember the Scripture that says, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him do it legally, giving her divorce papers and her legal rights'? Too many of you are using that as a cover for selfishness and whim, pretending to be righteous just because you are 'legal.' Please, no more pretending. If you divorce your wife, you're responsible for making her an adulteress (unless she has already made herself that by sexual promiscuity). And if you marry such a divorced adulteress, you're automatically an adulterer yourself. You can't use legal cover to mask a moral failure." - Matthew 5:31-32 (the Message)
There is a danger when people in "church work" recommend movies or advise people not to go to movies. There is even a danger when people in "church work" go to movies - even the purchase of a ticket can be seen as a tacit stamp of approval on the language/violence/sex that is (undoubtedly) present in the film.
So, I purchased a ticket to see "It's Complicated" and saw it with a friend. I laughed at the funny parts and cringed at the horrible parts - and there were plenty of both (and many of the horrible parts were meant to be funny, I'm sure).
The basic story: Jane (Meryl Streep) and Jake (Alec Baldwin) were married for 20 years, have 3 grown children, and have been divorced for 10 years. Jake is remarried to a younger woman (Lake Bell) and trying to have a child with her. Jane and Jake have become friendly again, after an acrimonious time when they didn't even want to be under the same roof.
At their son's graduation in New York, they reconnect and begin an affair. Jane finds herself being the "other woman" in Jake's second marriage. Jake sees no problem with this at all - he is thrilled with the new arrangement. Sex from both women, and Jane is even willing to fix him his favorite foods. He doesn't seem to be at all concerned for the well-being of his current wife, and seems to have learned nothing from the damage cause by his divorce.
Jane is morally confused. She knows she is having an affair, and knows this is wrong, even though she was married to him first. She seeks advice from her group of girlfriends, and they encourage her to continue. She seeks advice from her therapist, and he encourages her to continue. None of her circle of friends or advisers seems to have a moral compass - a sense of right and wrong. The look on the second wife's face when she realizes the truth confirms what the audience has known all along - that sex outside of marriage is a sin, and causes irreparable damage not only to the people committing the sin, but everyone in their family and circle of friends.
To be fair, "It's Complicated" did not glorify adultery. In fact, the movie detailed how damaging it had been to the former spouses as well as the children. Even Jane's architect, Adam (Steve Martin), has been divorced for 2 1/2 years and is still struggling and damaged emotionally. Jane and Jake's children are out of the house, 10 years post-divorce, and still bear the bruises wrought by the break-up of their parents' marriage. The revelation of the affair sends them running from the home and into a child-like cuddle session under blankets in the oldest daughter's house.
By this point in the movie, we realize why Jane stopped trying in her marriage. Jake is a jerk who is only concerned with himself. But Jane doesn't give herself a pass. She knows she was at fault too in their marriage. She stopped trying - and we all know that marriage is work - and as a result, Jake sought companionship outside of the marriage. So, he's a jerk. But she didn't fight for her marriage and help them "grow into the people they each wanted the other to be." She gave up, and she very maturely accepts blame.
Marriages are made up of two imperfect people, but together they can be so much more than that. Marriages are supposed to be about spouses sticking together and make each other better people as a result of the hard times, the good times, the self-sacrificing times and the selfish times. If Jake and Jane had stuck it out, this would have been a much different film. At one point, when they were dancing and having a great time together, I turned to my friend and said "this will be me and Tim in 20 years, except without the divorced part." I KNOW we will be happy and in love even more than we are today, because we are fighting for our marriage and we will never let go. It's not simple for us, indeed, it is "Complicated," but it's best for us, our future, and our children's future well-being.
Do I recommend "It's Complicated"? No. I don't. Besides the moral ambiguity about sex, there is drug use and language. I'm not sorry I saw it, because it made me appreciate my husband and our marriage and want to work harder. But I wouldn't put it on your Netflix queue...