The complication is that Jane (Streep) was married to Jake (Baldwin) – but he left her and their kids for other woman Agness (Lake Bell). Now Jake’s on a nostalgia trip, sweet-talking his independent ex into bed and a whole world of confusion. This may sound like unforgivably caddish behaviour, but script and actor conspire to make Jake an attractive proposition, with Baldwin’s charismatic arrogance and playful banter in full effect.
Baldwin has terrific chemistry with Streep: the pair seem to be having a genuinely hilarious time getting drunk and naked together – not that Jane will do that with the lights on. The script explores female insecurities and doesn’t shy away from the realities of middle-aged sex: Jake proudly displays his hairy beer belly on several occasions.
You could watch this pair run around having a slapstick secret affair for hours. Unfortunately, Steve Martin has to poke his head in as the Sensible Alternative, and he’s miscast. Martin is fine in comic scenes, but as a romantic possibility he’s unappealing. The inevitable conflict between the two men takes the film into more humdrum, sentimental territory, not helped by periodic appearances from Jane’s soppy grown-up children. Still, Streep is as enjoyable as ever, and if laughs count for anything, this is one of the better romantic comedies of the season.