The Words on the Page

It's Complicated

May 30, 2017

It's Complicated

Written by Nancy Meyers

Unspecified Draft 

Romantic Comedy, 117 pages

 

"Just because we were married for 19 years does not not make this an affair." - Jane

 

Nancy Meyers is a master of romantic comedy, and It's Complicated is no exception. A movie about a divorced couple in their 50s who fall into an affair at their son's college graduation, it's filled with twists and turns, and it kept me giggling throughout due to a nice balance between romance and comedy.

 

One of the devices Meyers applied that kept me on the edge of my seat was dramatic irony. Since we were a step ahead of the characters, we had just enough knowledge to be fearful of what would happen next, paired with the anticipated delight of wanting to see it played out. Two examples are when we knew that Jake was outside and spying on Jane while she had dinner with Adam and when Harley saw Jake and Jane at the hotel, but it was used most effectively in the video chat penis scene. As soon as Jane left the room and Jake came in and stripped down, it was evident where the scene was going. Meyers expertly pulled every last laugh out of the situation. 

 

Although this is thankfully starting to change, romantic comedies are usually the realm of 20-something protagonists, not characters in their 50s. However, I felt I could relate to Jane, and Meyers made sure the character felt real and never "old." Jane uses video chat, she and her friends hate their ex lovers, and they use Match.com. Jane's just like anyone else.

 

There were also a few unexpected twists in the script that kept me on my toes, like Jane's therapist basically telling her to go ahead with the affair. It wasn't the usual reaction, and the surprise made for a delicious moment.

 

As for words on the page, two things about Meyer's style particular interested me. The first was her introduction of characters. For example, when introducing Gabby, we meet her in a slug line:

 

"TWENTY-THREE YEAR OLD GABBY

in jeans and a tank top..."

 

After we "meet" her, we find we're:

 

"EXT. JANE'S HOUSE - LATE DAY"

 

By concentrating on Gabby first, Meyer shows us she's important. This method also helps me picture the movie in my mind, as I imagine an extreme closeup on Gabby before pulling back to show us the house. Meyer created that image without using a single camera direction!

 

The character slugs, as I've decided to name them, are used throughout. ANd, as they're written in bold, they are especially easy to pick out. Another favorite:

 

"ANGLE - JANE AND ADAM - TWO STONERS"

 

Another thing I noticed about the script is the balance between showing us and telling us. For example, through Agness's introduction on page 3 along with the dialogue of the scene, Meyers lets us figure out for ourselves that Jane and Jake are divorced and that Agness is his new wife. But at other times, she loads the action lines with descriptions we couldn't possibly know by looking, like "Gabby is Jane and Jake's middle child. But unlike most middle children, this one has never suffered from being ignored. Not a possibility with Jane as your mother." Because Meyers limited these descriptions to background facts, they never bothered me, and I thought they provided useful information for the rest of the production team.

 

As a final thought, I loved how Meyers buried the meet cute between Jane and Adam. Jane's full attention is on Peter, the architect she's been working with, and not his business partner Adam.

 

Peter: Jane, I can't remember, have you ever met Adam Schaeffer?

Jane: No/Adam: Yes

Adam: Well.... (shrugs awkwardly)

 

Jane proceeds to all but ignore Adam as she talks to Peter about the plans for her renovation. As a rom-com fan, I instantly know this is the love interest, but I appreciate the smallness of the moment. It feels real.

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Writing for film, television, and the stage is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult - and most rewarding - art forms. The language needs to be visual and evocative as each script must achieve two important tasks...
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