It's Complicated - Relationships in Real Life and in Fiction
Okay. So sue me. I’m hung up on complicated relationships, and as a writer that is not necessarily a bad thing. On the HBO show Newsroom – The Glory of Revenge – I’ll admit I was foaming a bit at the mouth over one of the episodes--at Sloan’s sheer audacity and courage to do what I totally consider the right thing to do in such a totally wrong situation–punch out an ex-boyfriend who posted nude photos of her online for revenge after they broke up.
That revelling in the TV series brought me and my sisters to a fond memory of another movie we’d seen years ago — well, not that far back — It’s Complicated, a title which, excuse the cliche’, hit the nail on the head.
Meryl Streep is a divorced woman who has just, after ten years, come to terms with her status as a now single woman when her cheating ex-husband, played by Alex Baldwin, re-enters her life and wants to have an affair with her. It seems his life with his new younger wife is not working out as planned, and he longs for his old life. Meryl, in this film, is a gourmet chef. She lives in a beautiful house–peaceful, I think, is the key word, which is in stark contrast to Alex’s life with his rambunctious and out of control new five year old son. Plus, his new wife wants yet another baby.
In a night of unexplained and drunken revelry, Meryl succumbs to Alex’s charms, and Alex reads that as a signal that he might have a chance to win his ex-wife back. Meryl is tempted, but hasn’t she grown beyond this relationship. All her girlfriends are charmed and appalled at the same time. Of course, to complicate the situation, because in this story–which mirrors real life so brilliantly, life is complicated–three almost totally grown up into adult children want to see their parents re-united and apply the appropriate pressure AND a new man enters Meryl Streep’s life played by the ever so charming Steve Martin.
Martin is uneasily divorced, too, and after five years, still listens to tapes in his car on how best to deal with the situation. He is afraid of being hurt again. He is winsomingly shy and very much taken by Meryl. They’re thrown together–he’s her architect and for the past few months has been fielding her obsessive emails regarding designs for her new dream kitchen. That alone has won him brownie points in her eyes. When she meets him, it is instant attraction, except, of course, for her ex-husband who keeps popping up at odd times.
I love this movie, the characters, the complications because we are rarely defined by the single role we play in other people’s eyes. We all have secrets we dare not reveal to even our best friends. Secret passions, secret meetings, secret thoughts, secret regrets. None of us are only the mother of or the wife of or the daughter of — we are the sum total of all of it.
It’s Complicatedcaptures the nuances of being human and when we are thrown together, we carve out complicated relationships! Yeah.
And this is the lesson we must remember as writers when we are writing OUR stories. Relationships are complicated because people are complicated. That's what makes books such wonderful things to read. People want to read stories that are juicy.