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Something's Gotta Give
Review written by: Alex Sandell
Screenwriter and Director, Nancy Meyers (The Parent Trap, What Women Want) was smiled down upon by the Gods of Casting for her latest picture, Something's Gotta Give. With Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton -- two of Hollywood's finest acting talents -- cast to play her leads, and Frances McDormand (Fargo, Laurel Canyon), Amanda Peet (Igby Goes Down, Identity) and Keanu Reeves (Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey) in supporting roles, she definitely has the right ingredients to cook up the perfect romantic comedy. But, as the ancient Chinese proverb states: "You can have the best clay in the world and still turn it into something super shitty." Does Nancy have the directing abilities to mold her pieces of "clay" into a work of art, or will she splatter them into a drippy mess, spinning uselessly in the spare room she uses for arts and crafts? (It's about at this point in the review where Jack's character from As Good as it Gets would look me straight in the eye and tell me that, "People who talk in metaphors oughta shampoo my crotch.")
Harry Langer (Jack Nicholson) is a successful man in his mid 60s. Although he's not much for commitment, he doesn't have any trouble adding notches to his bedpost (he just won't let the "notch" stay overnight, after the deed is done). Harry's not much for women his own age. As a matter of fact, they physically repulse him. He prefers the younger ladies. If the female's somewhere between legal and 29, he'll take her. If not, she's merely a reminder of his mortality, and the fact that he isn't getting any younger.
Enter Marin Barry (Amanda Peet), a girl in her late 20s, holding off on having sex with Harry until they have the perfect weekend at her mother's beach house. Both Harry and Marin are elated when the weekend finally arrives, but before any action can truly happen, in walk Marin's mother Erica Berry (Diane Keaton) and Marin's aunt Zoe Berry (Frances McDormand). The progressive Zoe decides that the entire group can all stay at the house, and do whatever it is that they want to do. Erica wants to write her newest play. Marin and Harry want to have sex. I can't remember what in the hell Zoe wants to do there. Maybe just be progressive.
Harry is now trapped with the "enemy." Two women, both over 30, and one of them (Zoe) just happens to be a feminist studies college professor, who takes it upon herself to study Harry's infatuation with younger girls. The situation is awkward, but Harry's libido is humming, and Marin wants whatever it can give her. The oddly-matched couple retires to the bedroom, prepares to fuck like rabid rabbits on double-dipped Viagra, and then Harry goes and puts a damper on the entire situation by having a heart attack. Instead of moaning Harry's name in pleasure, Marin is suddenly screaming out her mother's name in terror. Erica rushes to the rescue, an ambulance is called, and Harry's in the hospital. He's being treated by Doctor Julian, a young male MD, who just happens to have the hots -- not for Marin -- but for Marin's mother, Erica.
Oh...My...Gawd! Something surely has gotta give! (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
After staying overnight in the hospital, the restless Harry is ready to leave. He actually had a heart attack?!? Suddenly the guy's acting his age (in the age of fast-food). Although Harry can't walk from his wheelchair to his car -- Dr. Julian, who must have the best malpractice insurance in the history of medicine -- lets Harry leave the hospital, but only if he promises to stay in the area and hire a nurse. Harry agrees, and ends up staying with Erica. Eww... she's old! And she hasn't even had a facelift. WHO DOES SHE THINK SHE IS?!?
Of course a romance slowly starts up between the two. But this one is fun. It could almost be a prequel to the absolute classic, On Golden Pond. The two are growing old, and just starting their lives out at their house on the pond. But this isn't a pond, and I'm fantasizing about pitching prequels to Hollywood bigwigs, which is a sick and sad problem I've developed recently. Anyway, Jack and Diane work wonderfully together. Jack is amazing, as always, and Diane, well, if you're the high point in a picture with Jack Nicholson, you're doing something right. Diane Keaton's performance is worthy of an Oscar, and the best she's given since 1979's Annie Hall.
In Something's Gotta Give, we're not only watching Diane Keaton's character Erica regaining her sexuality. We're witnessing Diane Keaton, as an actress, regaining her status as one of Hollywood's most humorous and winsome leading ladies. And she doesn't need any damn cosmetic surgery to do so.
Harry sees the inner and outer beauty of Erica, and the two become giddy as schoolboys (and girls). It's almost like a teenage love-affair. Only, this one's a teenage love-affair with reading glasses. And how wonderful is the sex scene? When they do the next tribute to Keaton and/or Nicholson (and I'm sure "they" will within the next couple of years), the love making scene between the two will be a highpoint. I don't want to give it away, but I'll let you know that it gets funnier and sexier and wackier the entire time. Suddenly, the thought of my parents having sex isn't so gross. Okay, I guess it still is — but my parents aren't Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton.
The romantic moments between the couple escalate to near perfection. For a considerable length of time, I thought that Something's Gotta Give would be one of my favorite movies of 2003. But then Harry gets better, moves back to the city, and Dr. Julian moves in and starts dating Erica. The play Erica writes is basically a bitter send-up of her brief relationship with Harry. This gives enough reason for Harry to meet up with Erica in New York, and have a couple more heart attack scares. By the third, the joke really starts to grow stale. The movie grows stale, right along with it.
Why must there be a relationship between Dr. Julian and Erica? It's as pointless as hunting down terrorists in Iraq, when Saudi Arabia is just sitting there, playing innocent. And then there's miniature sub-plots thrown in for unfathomable reasons. Meyers keeps digging the film's grave deeper, until the end feels as meretricious and conventional as a Justin Timberlake concert presented by McDonald's and Clear Channel.
But the film has its youth. Those early moments in the movie are magical. Although Thanksgiving's over (Thank God), the audience should be thankful for the wonderful little comedic romance given to them during the flick's first 75-90 minutes. The moments with Jack & Diane falling in love with each other at the beach house are to be treasured, even if the movie does eventually wear out its welcome by about 30 minutes, 3 or 4 subplots, and around 5 false endings.
Nancy Meyers was given the perfect clay to work with, and she worked it to perfection. Unfortunately, once she saw how neat the sculpture she had created looked, she decided to keep adding to it, until it nearly tipped over. But, I'd definitely recommend this for a matinee, if you don't have a significant other to bring along to the film. If you are one of the fortunate ones in a relationship, I'd go as far as recommending this one at full-price — as long as it's a date night (a date night would be either Friday or Saturday. This "Thursday night is date night, too" shit is getting on my nerves).
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Coming soon -- Reviews of The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Something's Gotta Give and Cheaper by the Dozen!
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Text ©(Copyright) 2003 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].