At the outset of Nancy Meyers’ “Something’s
Gotta Give” I was unsure of what to expect from this unlikely
pairing of the writer/director from “What Women Want”
and “The Parent Trap” remake and Jack Nicholson. Would
this be simply a stale romantic tug-of-war complete with
sugar-coated ending? Or could Meyers utilize her charming pair of
romantic leads (Diane Keaton costars), take comedic risks and
create something fresh?

Kate Green
Courtesy of Sony
My watch says 3:30. Time for the early-bird at Old Country Buffet.

With flashes of comic ingenuity, the finished product is well
polished, but also takes several notable missteps. Meyers presents
a slightly smug look at two aging workaholics who find, through
trial and error and several dreamy walks on the beach, that they
are meant to be. Unfortunately, quick wit and the actors’
graceful willingness to humiliate themselves do not manage to
completely overshadow minor plot issues and at least 20 minutes of
drag time.

Keaton, as the smart and spirited playwright Erica Barry, proves
she’s still got that awkward charm she perfected nearly 30
years ago in “Annie Hall.” When she calls the police on
an underwear-clad intruder only to learn that he is dating her
daughter, her hopeless attempts at saving face are endearing.
Further chaos ensues when Barry’s sister (Frances McDormand,
“Fargo”) can’t see why the whole crew
shouldn’t stay for the weekend. A question quickly answered
when the boyfriend, Harry (Nicholson), gets too excited by the
beautiful young daughter (Amanda Peet) and promptly has a heart
attack.

A series of not-so-unexpected events later finds our two heroes
all alone in his gorgeous (and impossibly lavish) beach house in
the Hamptons with nothing to do but listen to French music, instant
message each other between bedrooms and, of course, fall in love.
The charm here cannot lie in plot anticipation, but instead in the
generous exchanges between Nicholson and Keaton who never begrudge
each other a chance to shine.

An honest approach to the humor of real-life situations is the
film’s biggest strength. Who can deny the humor of Diane
Keaton halting in the throes of passion to take Jack
Nicholson’s blood pressure? Another delightfully absurd
moment finds a heartbroken Keaton mourning with expertly-timed
wails for seemingly hours on end to hilarious effect.

The pairing of these two characters in the first place, however,
is potentially problematic. Audiences may deem Harry’s
heartless bachelor unworthy of Erica’s motherly career woman.
Mucking things up even further is a virtual puppy dog of a doctor
(Keanu Reeves) who falls head over heels for her and appears more
than worthy of her affections. In addition, a relentless run time
and beyond-cliché finale leave behind a slightly sour
taste.

Nonetheless, the chemistry between the two star’s is
terrific and such sore spots cannot keep Keaton and
Nicholson’s work from succeeding on the surface at least. The
film fares quite well as a smart and amusing look at unlikely love
complete with a romantic’s dream soundtrack and several
first-rate performances.

Rating: 3 stars

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