Something’s Gotta Give (review)

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Giving Up

Am I the only one who’s tired of seeing Jack Nicholson doing his best Jack Nicholson impersonation? Am I the only person not charmed by Diane Keaton’s typically twitchy, neurotic, uptight intellectual? Am I the only one who doesn’t see, in Something’s Gotta Give, two fictional characters who’re crazy about each other but instead two iconic movie stars pretending to be in love for our entertainment?

There’s probably no reasonable chance that I’d ever have been bewitched by such a scenario, but Nancy Meyers’s ludicrous execution of it seals the deal. Oh, everyone’s perfect even when they aren’t, everyone’s impossibly rich and owns multiple corporations and beach homes in the Hamptons and luxury automobiles. Cripes, even the hospital scenes here are like a fantasy of effective and compassionate medical care. Everyone over 50 will love it, because it’s about an “older” couple who actually has sex — never mind that Keaton is 11 years younger than Nicholson — and it offers lots of lame jokes about Viagra and the intermingling of reading glasses. It’ll be huge. Our parents will love it. It’s still crap.

Look, it’s great that someone is trying to depict “older” women onscreen as vital and sexy creatures. Even if Keaton is shot in such overly flattering lighting and with such a soft focus that you practically have to squint to see her. Even if one of the “older” women is Frances McDormand (City by the Sea, Laurel Canyon), who’s nine years younger than Keaton — making her young enough to be Nicholson’s daughter — and is barely onscreen at all and doesn’t get to be attracted to or have sex with anyone.

But you know, Keaton’s (Town and Country, Annie Hall) Erica Barry is really annoying. I mean, she’s exquisite and she can’t walk into a room without everyone there falling instantly and madly in love with her, but she’s so without flaws — except for the twitchy neuroses, which are presented as charming, and aren’t — that there’s nothing real about her. She’s not a person — she’s an avatar who lives in a Pottery Barn catalog that our moms can project themselves onto, with her fabulous career as a playwright and her smart sass toward Jolly Jack, who’s typically full of himself, and her attraction for a pretty, young doctor, Julian (Keanu Reeves: The Matrix Revolutions, Sweet November). What gal wouldn’t like to have Keanu Reeves fall madly in love with her at first sight, no matter how old she is? Reeves hasn’t been this adorable and this irresistible in a long time, and he’s about the only thing tolerable here.

Which makes Keaton’s eventual decision to go with Nicholson (The Pledge, As Good as It Gets) all the more absurd. Oh, come on, I’m not spoiling anything — it’s not like this wasn’t a foregone conclusion you can assume from, like, the film’s concept: Diane and Jack together for the first time! But even though he’s a playboy who never even looks at women over 30, his misogynistic piggishness is treated with such boys-will-be-boys lightness that it approaches the disgusting. Particularly egregious is the scene in which his Harry Langer, who’s been recuperating at Erica’s Hamptons house after a mild heart attack — it’s far too ridiculous to get into, but suffice to say that they’ve just met the day before — stumbles into Erica’s bedroom and sees her naked. Meyers plays this moment by encouraging the audience to see Erica’s body — which is, of course, in far better shape than that of many women half her age — through Harry’s eyes, as something hideous and horrible that might turn you to stone.

It all meanders through Erica’s inability to make a decision about these men — because, of course, even Harry, who would normally find her hideous, is reconsidering his life after his brush with death and now finds Erica as alluring as the entire population of planet Earth apparently does — while she writes a new play about her ups and downs with Harry. She laughs and cries and types in her room all by herself in perhaps the godawful showiest Diane Keanton-ish display ever, and Meyers just doesn’t know what to do with the story. She tries out half a dozen different endings before she settles on one, but by that point, any minute appeal the film might have had has long since worn itself out.

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