Something's Gotta Give

Something really strange happens in Something's Gotta Give. Well, something strange aside from some comic nudity by Jack Nicholson (current age: 63) and Diane Keaton (current age: 57). It's the focus of the film is on a relationship between these two people. Hollywood is usually so obsessed with youth that any romantic comedy tends to focus either on actors in their twenties or younger, sometimes people in their thirties, or an older man with a much younger woman. It takes somebody like writer/director Nancy Meyers (What Women Want, The Parent Trap), who has some clout in Hollywood, especially after the success of What Women Want, to make a film that she wants to make instead of a film Hollywood thinks people want to see. As a result, she is reaching out to a whole demographic completely ignored by Hollywood, and pumping out an amusing film in the process.

Most of this comes from some playful self-mocking by its stars, particularly Nicholson (Anger Management, About Schmidt), who plays Harry Langer, a notorious sex-obsessed bachelor who dabbles only with women who are under thirty. Harry's reputation was so large that he had an article written about him. He's over 60 and sees no reason to settle down. His current girlfriend is the young and nubile Marin Barry (Amanda Peet, Identity, Igby Goes Down). The pair are off to the Hamptons for a weekend of lovemaking at Marin's mother Erica's house, not knowing that Erica (Keaton, Town & Country, Hanging Up) is on her way there with her sister Zoe (Frances McDormand, City by the Sea, Laurel Canyon) to get some work done in a relaxing location. Erica is a famous playwright, and Zoe is a liberal women's studies professor. Needless to say, the meeting does not go well. Erica and Zoe instantly dislike Harry for his philandering ways, and he doesn't help by frequently insulting Erica's age.

A movie like this needs some sort of crux to get the two together, and it comes in the form of a heart attack on Harry's behalf, induced by a bout of almost successful lovemaking. Harry finds himself bedridden at Erica's house under orders of Julian Mercer (Keanu Reeves, The Matrix Revolutions, The Matrix Reloaded), an attractive young doctor who takes a liking to Erica. At home, Erica and Harry continue their battle of the sexes (and dressing like they are GAP models), until they realize that they have more in common than they first believed, and, unbelievably (er, predictably), the two begin to fall for each other. This is the best part of the film. Nicholson and Keaton play headstrong, Type A individuals who are used to having things their way. They know what they want, and will not stand for any crap. They are successful in their professions, yet are missing that certain somebody to make their lives complete. As they begin to bond, they slowly circle each other like wary predators, each afraid to let his/her guard down. When they wall does begin to crumble, the two actors show the vulnerable sides to their characters, trading sharp barbs with each other.

Nicholson in particular is fun to watch. His last attempt at comedy (Anger Management) was far too over-the-top to be enjoyable. Here, he struggles with Viagara, sight problems, dizziness, and even cries at a whim. And Keaton is a good foil, because her character can actually stand up to him. Part of what makes them so enjoyable is their respective careers. Everybody knows what they can do and the kinds of roles they played, and watching them here feels like a logical next step for their various characters. Even Reeves fares surprisingly well given his penchant for hollow performances. However, his character feels pretty unnecessary. As a younger love interest for Erica, he is there to serve as a reverse Harry (a younger man infatuated with an older woman) and to create a sense of conflict for Erica. It doesn't feel very 'real,' and seems to be there to make the story longer.

And the story is utterly predictable, which isn't always a problem. Meyers' dialogue is fresh and witty enough to get over much of the formula structure of the film, but its running time begins to undermine it. Something's Gotta Give feels like it ends two or three times, only to keep going. Within these are every type of ending one could hope for, before a jaunt over the Paris that doesn't feel like it belongs. It wears down the viewer, especially because they want to see Harry and Erica get together, and Meyers is using artificial things to keep them apart. By the time the film finally does end, some of the charm is gone.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
2 hours, 13 minutes, Rated PG-13 for sexual content, brief nudity, and strong language.

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