If you want to get into an Oscar race but aren’t actually good enough to do something nomination-worthy, there is a fail-proof formula:

Romantic comedy + old people + winter release = absurd award attention!

It worked for As Good as it Gets and Something’s Gotta Give. (And the terminal old guy bromance, The Bucket List.) And this year it’s working for It’s Complicated!

It’s Complicated is a perfectly agreeable film, maybe even an above average romantic comedy. But if it’s not about old people or released in December (or starring a Serious Actor like Meryl Streep), it comes nowhere close to Oscar night. Actually, judging from the list above, if Alec Baldwin had been replaced by Jack Nicholson this would be a front-runner for Best Picture.

Oscar love probably won’t come anyway, but it’s pretty curious we’re talking about it at all. It does tackle the romantic comedy from a slightly different point-of-view, the older divorcee. And in fact I found it fairly insightful in the interactions between the main players. “Nobody tells you how to be divorced,” Streep’s Jane tells her kids. It’s an interesting point.

Too bad the it’s packaged around a completely by-the-numbers plot. Scenes involving awkwardly-timed tokes and webcam chats gone awry provide a few chuckles but are nothing noteworthy. The dialogue is quite ordinary and sometimes downright bad, like the scenes with Streep and her friends. I was intrigued by the characters and what they might do and think from a broad perspective, but not in what they actually did. A handful of unique sparks and a few solid points that hit home do not make a movie special. It makes it fine.

I can understand how it can sneak into the Best Picture-Comedy/Musical category at the Golden Globes, even though it beat out much superior comedies (I Love You Man, In the Loop). And Streep gets some HFPA love for sneezing (and, yes, she’s good here). But the Best Screenplay nod is just dumbfounding. In a category that’s not divided by original/adapted or comedy/drama, how in the world can someone think this is in the top five of the year?

Alec Baldwin got some small amount of attention for Supporting Actor, but that seems to have dissipated. I dig the guy and am looking forward to his hosting stint, but this is probably for the best. And goodness, please don’t let this sneak into Original Screenplay.

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