Saturday, December 26, 2009

Movie review: It ain't that complicated, honey

I love watching rich people in movies. It's not a dirty pleasure; it's escape. The first twenty minutes of a scary movie, wherein everyone's life is idyllic and split-level--oh I can't get enough of the fantasy. I almost regret it when the man across the street turns into a serial killer (Disturbia) or the attractive fellow forces his seat mate on a plane to help him with a presidential assassination (Red Eye). The jocular interactions between Thelma Ritter and Jimmy Stewart (Rear Window--a particularly great Hitchcock)--and the promise of Grace Kelly before the digging starts across the way--heaven.

But all of the above hint at some recognition that these idylls are just that, cushions of privilege. There is a contrast. Heaven, without the knowledge that there are a slew of folk sweating it out down there isn't nearly as much fun.

I don't even have a TV but have managed to sneak in various versions of Law & Order. The episodes I like best provide a plausible but completely unprovable (by me) view into the lives of the wealthy before they are murdered, plundered, accused. The background is a somewhat gritty New York; the cops are street smart. The contrasts satisfy.

There are no contrasts in It's Complicated, with Meryl and Alec. I just got back from a $6 matinee. They live in the toniest homes of tony Santa Barbara. They have three perfect children who were slightly stung by their divorce but somehow brave life with their fully paid academic degrees; in fully paid automobiles; guaranteed lives of product placement. Their teeth are straight and white; were they to tithe ten percent of their income they would still bank a solid six figures to live on, annually.

The scary thing is, minus the anorexia, crank addictions, embezzlement, this movie may depict some people's lives. I lived in Bronxville for three months (only three months, true), but what I saw--Bronxville, 25 minutes on the train from Grand Central--houses more CEOs than Greenwich, CT--was this same kind of willful, sheltered and self-imposed version of "bliss." It's a received version. Nothing original, individual, authentic.

The acting is good, the dialog sucks. Even if director/writer Nancy Meyers is directly quoting her group of galfriends --who frequent the ultimate cliche of an upscale coffee/chocolate croissant haunt--must the most repeated word be, "amazing!" I got tired of hearing that in 1997. Alec, Meryl, Steve Martin, the kids. To all of them, all things good are "Amazing!"

Oh. And every character's empathy is expressed in an, "I get it." I get it, dudes.

Incidentally, Steve Martin in on Haldol until the final fifteen minutes of the movie. Have these people really led such insulated lives that everyone's reactions are girlish or childish--over and over and over? Meryl is constantly batting her eyes and sighing and fanning away menopause flashes--yeah, "I get it." And the kids are like ten year olds who just said "the bad word" for the first time.

Spare me Santa Barbara. Spare me the working but idle-minded rich. I'm not saying I wasn't diverted, I was. And that's why I'm bothering with a film review. Because what could have been a good movie, some equivalent of "Up in the Air" with its very watchable take on America in crisis is instead a testament to a Laurel Canyon life, an L.A.-perfect life, cleverly transported an hour north. And not a Laurel Canyon with hitchhikers or pockets of dopers on food stamps.

Nancy Meyers. Grow a pair. But kudos to you for having the cajones to try and make us believe THERE'S NOT EVEN ONE BLACK PERSON in the world. Hey, the son's just graduated from NYU. Couldn't he have a quirky music/math Asian roommate? Gimme something, Lady. I DON'T get it. Amazing!

The image has nothing to do with the movie. I just felt like it. Do you get it? Amazing.

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