It's Complicated: Lessons on Marriage from Hollywood?

It's Complicated: Lessons on Marriage from Hollywood?
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Is it possible that Hollywood is growing a conscience? Hollywood who, for some time now, has been exporting some of America's worst values, seems to be sending out something that is entertaining and does what good theater is meant to do, cause us to self reflect. This month I am recommending that my clients who are experiencing marriage issues (which is all my clients, it seems) tune in HBO and watch ,It's Complicated.

It's Complicated tells the story of Jane and Jake, a divorced couple of ten years who, at their son's graduation from College, "rediscover" each other . In the Biblical sense. What's of value here, is that the film actually deals with the lasting effects of divorce on the children and the lingering doubts and questions in the mind of the separated couple. Hilariously I might add. With the light touch of Meryl Streep , Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin and wonderful and believable performances by John Krasinsky, the couple's three children and Jane's girlfriends, we see a tale unfold that is so familiar, it is almost eerie. Maybe the Santa Barbara beauty isn't everyone's story, but the family and relationship dynamics that this movie attempts to deal with, are more common than any of us may care to admit.

It's Complicated
brings an American story out into the open. We talk a lot about dysfunctional families in America, but we don't talk much about the enduring pain of divorce, on all concerned. Maybe it's because just too many people have this particular pain and looking at it squarely is just too, well....painful.

Perhaps the best way to look at it then is through humor. Through almost vaudevillian vignettes that bring to light the awkward, zany and sometimes sad situations that follow in the wake of a family who started out one way, and winds up somewhere else. We see:
  • How funny and supportive girlfriends are (Rita Wilson's laugh and unequivocal support of her straying friend is to die for)
  • How men can feel left out of the closeness among the mom and children.
  • How women micromanage.
  • How men can out.
  • How awful interacting with your ex can be.
  • How weird that is for the children who were lovingly brought into the world by two people who now, cannot stand to be in the same room together.
  • How hard the childrearing period of ANY marriage is when stresses are at their height and time for nourishing intimacy (and sex) are last on the list.

What is a bit odd about this film, however, is that the actors may be telling a different story from the script. Or are they? Whether an unconscious part of the writer's mind, a bit intentional or simply an accident of casting, all of the chemistry is between Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin. As a viewer, I find myself rooting for the "original five" to re-unite. As someone who just celebrated a 35th anniversary, I find myself wanting to recommend this film as a cautionary tale of a marriage that probably didn't have to end. As a therapist, I find myself longing to get Jane and Jake into couple's therapy so that they can learn to talk out all of their hurts, unmet needs, petty annoyances and deep resentments, rather than give up on something that was "rather remarkable" and possibly could still be. For everyone concerned.

Congratulations Nancy Meyers, you have put flesh on a truth so common now as to be cliché. It's Complicated. Or is it?

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