One of our tasks at University was to write and direct a one-man show. I chose one about an interrogation. Set in the Bush War and the dying days of white Rhodesia, and adapted from a Zimbabwean short story the name of which I can no longer remember, the play required the actress, as a white police officer, to prowl about an empty chair, barking a uni-directional questions at an imaginery black prisoner. The idea was that the poor sot in the torture seat was essentially silenced by the prejudices and assumptions of the interrogator….
It’s funny how one recalls these odd things, a quarter of a century later. But recall it I did after watching It’s Complicated starring Meryl Streep and Alex Baldwin. It’s Complicated is the wry and semi-sweet tale of a divorced couple’s clumsy attempt to revisit their discarded romance, much to the dismay of the almost-grown kids and the new partners of both adults.
The reason for being reminded of my Rhodesian torture scene – oh, bear with me here, it’s not that complicated – was NOT that the movie was particularly excruciating. (It isn’t – it’s not great but it’s not awful). It’s more that Alec Baldwin’s character might not have actually been missed if everyone had just worked around his empty chair. All he’s really given to do is look moon faced and wan and frankly stupid and mutter “Jane, Jane, Jane…” – which is a terribly waste of Jack Donaghy, in my books.
The film has a strong Santa Barbara, California setting – and Jane’s Spanish ranch-style home and lush garden are really a central cinematic tool of anchoring and rooting Jane’s family. Only problem is it didn’t film in Santa Barbara: the LA Times has absolutely the best article about this. In way of compensation though, Santa Barbara’s tourism folks have responded to this snub by creating a “Santa Barbara Experience” around the sights and sounds that are at least evoked by the movie….