The aptly titled "It's Complicated" (Universal/Relativity) features an ethically tangled story demanding careful evaluation by mature viewers. Indeed, to quote the perplexed monarch of Siam in Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic musical "The King and I," from a Catholic moral perspective, "Is a puzzlement."
That's because writer-director Nancy Meyers' aesthetically smooth-running romantic comedy concerns a couple—successful bakery-restaurant owner Jane (Meryl Streep) and legal eagle Jake Adler (Alec Baldwin)—who, a decade after their divorce, reconnect and have an affair. This, despite his second marriage to much younger "trophy wife" Agness (Lake Bell) and Jane's budding romance with Adam (Steve Martin), an architect working on an addition to her home.
Assuming their union was valid to begin with, however, the pair's seeming adultery—presented as a daring feminist adventure for Streep's well-delineated character—would, in fact, be marital lovemaking. Yet the breach of trust with the new "spouse" can hardly be excused, and adds a further twist to the spiritually convoluted proceedings.
In its more serious moments, Meyer's script does highlight the lasting emotional toll exacted on children when their parents split. Thus the three grown kids of the original match—Lauren (Caitlin Fitzgerald), Gabby (Zoe Kazan) and Luke (Hunter Parrish)—straightforwardly acknowledge that they're still hurt by the long-ago breakup.
And, in a touching scene, Jake and Agness' usually bratty young son Pedro (Emjay Anthony) shows his instinctive affection for his father, while being tucked into bed, by sleepily pressing Jake's hand to his heart, a gesture made all the more poignant by the audience's knowledge that, by now, Jake is seriously considering deserting Agness and Pedro to return to Jane.
Like the chats Jane enjoys with her quartet of best friends, who also serve as her misguided romantic advisers, the conclusion toward which the plot moves accords more with freewheeling contemporary mores than with the perennial wisdom of church doctrine.
The film contains complex moral issues; skewed values; implied sexual activity, some of it adulterous; off-screen masturbation; fleeting rear nudity; considerable drug use; some sexual references and humor; and a half-dozen crude or crass terms. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
John Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.
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