Nobody utters the word "menopause" in Nancy Meyers' romantic comedy "It's Complicated," but the concept is made physical by Meryl Streep as Jane Adler, a divorcee of a certain age. In moments of stress, passion and dismay - and she has many - Jane frantically fans herself with one hand, looking almost like a 19th century hysteric.
In fact, Jane is a 21st century bourgeoise, a bakery owner living atop a seaside Santa Barbara cliff. She raised three children with Jake Adler (Alec Baldwin), at least until he traded her for the younger Agness (Lake Bell), who has more boing in her bikini. All of which makes the attentions of a shy architect, Adam (Steve Martin, blander than he should be), pleasantly surprising.
But life throws Jane a curve when she bumps into Jake at a hotel bar. Reluctantly she agrees to a drink, then a dance - and in a brilliantly timed edit the two land in bed.
"Home, sweet home!" crows Jake, a line that Baldwin delivers with the perfect blend of crass machismo and genuine joy. That quickie leads to another, and soon Jane is having a bona fide affair. Yes, it's sweet revenge - take that, Agness! - but what about poor Adam?
Writer-director Meyers is clearly stealing from her far richer "Something's Gotta Give," so she overcompensates with too many characters (Jane's children are interchangeable Gap models) and middlebrow comedic sequences (pass the joint!). "It's Complicated" gets by mainly on the skills of its star.
No, not Streep, but Baldwin. He's the movie's comedic center and its most intriguing presence, a vision of preposterous virility - all chest-hair and barrel gut - with just the weensiest bit of tenderness. Clearly, Meyers understands male menopause, too.