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Getting drunk is not complicated

January 17, 2010
Something has been bothering me about a delightful movie I saw recently, It’s Complicated . It’s a very funny comedy in which the not-skinny, non-airbrushed, 60-year-old Meryl Streep is simultaneously pursued by two men, former husband  Alex Baldwin and new suitor Steve Martin


As a single mother who has raised three kids and been on her own for some time now, I identified with several aspects of her life – although, sadly, not that gorgeous California spread, much-too perfect garden, and apparent complete lack of financial worry.  But I especially cheered on the honest portrayal of middle age, complete with the main characters’ obvious wrinkles and thick waists.

But as a writer, I found the movie seriously flawed in one respect: that major plot turns resulted from characters’ getting either drunk or stoned.  It’s not the alcohol or the marijuana I object to.  It’s the failure of the writing.

Although I don’t write fiction, one thing I know about plot is that a character’s action needs to be both surprising and at the same time, reasonable.  Even, somehow, expected.  alcohol and marijuana become a contrived kind of “deus ex machina” that simply reveal an author’s lack of inventiveness.

Without all that wine and cognac, would Meryl Streep’s character ever have ended up in bed with her ex-husband? (Now there’s a fantasy I’ve never shared.) I don’t think so.  But then, we wouldn’t have had a movie, would we?

Although I’m no prude about alcohol (I did go to college in the 1970s, after all) I stopped drinking years ago, primarily for health and diet reasons. I remember worrying about this when I first began post-divorce dating.  Would men find me a dud because I didn’t drink?

I had yet to realize that a far greater worry should have been the opposite, which was this: how could I possibly find anyone attractive, now that I didn’t drink?  Having a drink with a blind date when the drink consisted of a diet soda resulted in what I came to call the “What You See Is What You Get” Effect. Without the happy, edge-softening buzz provided by alcohol, no man ever looked any more attractive or interesting than he actually was.

Although this made for a great many dull evenings, I later came to see this as a very good thing.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 17, 2010 8:55 pm

    That’s a fantastic observation Jessica. Very recently divorced & not dating yet, but tucking this gem away. Looking forward to seeing the movie!

  2. Helen Schiavetta permalink
    January 18, 2010 12:32 pm

    Many a bad marriage has begun with a bottle of wine. You are so perceptive. But it has also helped many scared brides !

  3. Linda Smith permalink
    January 19, 2010 12:51 am

    Ah, “helped” many a scared bride to say “I do” to someone they obviously shouldn’t be marrying at the time? If they are scared (of the commitment or the sex or the future), perhaps there is a good reason, right?

    • January 19, 2010 1:13 am

      My sentiments exactly. Do you think the high divorce rate might have something to do with the high rate of married-under-the-influence?

  4. January 24, 2010 12:30 pm

    The drinking in this movie was like the unexpected legacy received in a Victorian novel – it made things possible which otherwise would not have happened.

    I like Meryl Streep but dislike this movie. It has no moral center. Former husband moved on to a new, younger wife and they created a child. He now finds his marriage disappointing, a matter for which he takes no responsibility. And Streep considers taking him back? He’ll screw her again (psychologically), if he has the strength and energy.

    And you are right about that garden. I was looking for the grounds crew, but they were never in evidence.

    • January 25, 2010 11:13 pm

      I always love to hear your thoughts. I completely agree about the movie. I guess it was intended to be mostly a feel-good for the over-50s set. It worked! Thanks for posting.

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