Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 12, 2004 10:54 pm 
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Something’s gotta suck

Starring Jack Nicholson, Dianae Keaton, and Keanu Reeves and opening toward the end of 2003, “Something’s Gotta Give” – a meaningless title – is a conventional Hollywood film “romantic comedy” about June-December romances. Regardless of the high competence of the actors (including Keanu, who, constant carping at his acting skills not withstanding, is suave and able here), it all seems more than pointless, too drawn out and not really ever funny, though middle-aged women apparently have found Ms. Keaton’s sufferings hilarious. Amanda Peet, ravaged in her character role in Igby Goes Down, is in full bloom here: she’s an astonishing beauty, though she has little to do. Frances McDormand is equally wasted in a minor role as Keaton’s friend.

I personally find it hard to see Nicholson as an aging lothario, though it’s said he dates young women in real life: overweight, wrinkly, and burnt-out looking, were he not buoyed up by the sheer power of being Jack Nicholson, he would have nothing attractive about him but the ability to smile easily and an air of smug self-confidence (for those who find that attractive). Diane Keaton here lacks the individuality she once had in her famous Seventies Woody Allen roles. Light comedy writer/director Nancy Meyers turns her into the generic “attractive older woman,” American style – considerably more uneasy and unfocused (not to mention less glamorous and beautiful) than Catherine Deneuve, say, but with a wiry, desperate energy.

This new generic quality of the aging Diane Keaton (in her late fifties when shooting this) allows a greater number of past-their-prime female Americans to identify with her. The screenplay is uncertain from early on. While Nicholson’s Harry is thrown in with Keaton’s Erica due to his developing heart trouble while wooing his young girlfriend (Keaton’s daughter in the piece), they find they like each other, despite his proclivity for under-thirty girlfriends and her having given up on romance. But there is Nicholson’s cardiologist, Reeves, who is programmed to be turned on by Keaton’s character as a huge admirer of her screenplays who finds her amazing in person.

The screenplay doesn’t know how to juggle these two attractions – it hasn’t got the basic techniques of bedroom farce quite down – and it just puts Keanu’s doctor on the back burner most of the time. He has to play a fancy restaurant date scene without Keaton, who has forgotten all about him. But then Keanu’s called back in when needed and is Keaton’s surprise escort in Paris when Nicholson turns up and magically – movie magic? – wanders into the restaurant where Keaton is dining. Then when they have the birthday dinner for Keaton à trois, we’re supposed to believe that Keanu would later turn her over to Nicholson, seeing that she “still loves him.” The way this is handled is so flimsy; so Hollywood in the worst sense. There is no human logic, no emotional preparation. It’s both a glossy film and a tacky, sloppy one. I’m not quite sure why Keaton’s performance has been called wonderful and Nicholson’s a hack job. What’s the difference? They’re both pros, and without them, and Reeve’s handsome suavity, there would be no movie. The screenplay hasn’t the emotional validity that would permit convincing or graceful performances to take place. It’s like TV sitcom stuff with higher production values but without the clearcut laughs. It may have a more glamorous mise-en-scène, but it’s neither a smart nor a well-constructed comedy.

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

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