THERE’S COMPLICATED AND THEN THERE’S COMPLICATED: Reviews of It’s Complicated and Sherlock Holmes


In It’s Complicated, the author Nancy Meyers (who also directed) constantly uses the idea of French films as a metaphor for what is happening in her story. And she’s exactly right. The pitch line for this movie, a woman has an affair with her ex-husband who left her for a younger woman years earlier, is exactly the sort of thing the French, with their “oh, so adult” sense of relationships, would do. It would star someone like Catherine Deneuve as the wife and people like Daniel Auteuil and Gerard Depardieu as the ex-husband and the new boyfriend. It’s hard to say that the French would do it better; they have their hits and misses. But for me, It’s Complicated never does quite rise to its sophisticated occasion. Everyone works very hard, especially Meryl Streep as the wife who has become the other woman. She’s constantly laughing or flailing her arms or rolling her eyes; if a line isn’t working, then her body sure is. Alec Baldwin probably gives the best line readings of the leads, he seems so relaxed, though Steve Martin has some wonderful scenes being stoned. In the end, however, it’s John Krasinski as Streep’s future son in law who has the best double takes and gets the most laughs. It’s hard to say exactly why it doesn’t work as well as one would want. It has all the right ingredients. But perhaps the clever script isn’t quite clever enough and perhaps Meyers doesn’t quite have the right Gallic touch for the material. Perhaps Streep’s friends and her children are just a bit too much of a drag. Perhaps everybody’s just trying too hard. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. I don’t know. It’s complicated.
Sherlock Holmes may on the surface be about the famous Victorian detective, but the movie, or at least the best parts of it, are about a straight married couple (Holmes and Watson) going through a divorce made all the more difficult because one is marrying someone else and the two are still in love with each other. Gee, this sounds awfully like the movie It’s Complicated. It’s not, though I would have to say that in many ways calling the plot to Sherlock Holmes complicated might be a very apt description. This was the part of the movie that didn’t really work that much for me. The evil plan put forth by Mark Strong’s Lord Blackwood has something to do with destroying both houses of Parliament with the eventual idea of taking back the American colonies which have been weakened by the Civil War. His ultimate goal is world domination, but exactly how reclaiming the United States would help him do just that is somewhat unclear, and therefore just a tad on the camp side (sort of like Lex Luther wanting to cause an earthquake and have California slip back in the ocean so all his new property will be beach front—actually that makes a little more sense). It also depends not so much on cleverness on Blackwood’s part, but on such dull plot twists as his taking the easy way out and bribing some jail keepers. But no matter; Blackwood’s plan may be a tad confusing, but the love spats of Holmes and Watson (played wonderfully by Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law) are very clear indeed. Eddie Marsan (having a good couple of years) also works well as Inspector Lastrade, but Rachel McAdams doesn’t really strike the right cord as a femme fatale, though it is fun to see how shy and uncomfortable Holmes gets around women. It’s heavily directed by Guy Ritchie, which works part of the time, but at others, gets a bit in the way. The uneven script is by Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham and Simon Kinberg. It’s not a disaster, but not as good as it could have been.

CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG: Review of Invictus


Invictus is well meaning and sincere, directed and written by people who have no trouble wearing their hearts on their sleeves. The L.A. Times here compared it to such classic biopics as The Story of Louis Pasteur and The Life of Emile Zola. I agree whole heartedly with the Times, but the problem I had is that the Times considered the comparison a compliment; I’m not so sure. All those films (what I and Jerry, my best friend in Chicago, call a typical Warner Brother’s biopic) are well done, often entertaining, with some great acting, as is Invictus. At the same time, they never really rise above what they are and there’s something a bit safe and stodgy about them as well. By the time this story of Nelson Mandela’s attempts to bring unity to South Africa by championing a rugby team came to an end (a sport only supported by the minority whites while Mandela was imprisoned by aforesaid whites), the only real impact I was left with were the incredible rugby scenes, a series of grueling, cruel gladiatorial matches. Where the rest of the movie got the job done, these scenes went for the juggler and succeeded. Morgan Freeman plays Nelson Mandela. It use to be James Earl Jones who always played God; somewhere along the way when people weren’t looking, the divine torch got passed to Freeman as if they were running for the Olympic Committee. Morgan’s good and one can feel just how tired and weary this man is. Matt Damon as the captain of the rugby team does very well with his South African accent, a distancing effect that seems to help him give one of his better performances. The screenplay by Anthony Peckham (who also penned the new Sherlock Holmes movie) covers all the bases and is a solid enough journeymen script. The direction by Clint Eastwood is the same. All in all, I recommend highly a movie on the same subject that did not get all the hoopla Invictus did: Endgame, a film first shown on BBC Contemporary and then was released to the movie theaters. It’s less ambitious in scope, but more successful in what it tried to do.