Something's Gotta Give 

(PG-13) 4 stars

(PG-13) 4 stars

What you should know about Something’s Gotta Give, a romantic comedy starring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton. 1. The film is wonderful, just wonderful, despite its flaws. I’ll note those later, after focusing on the wonderful stuff.
-One dip or two: Amanda Peet and Jack Nicholson.-

2. Written and directed by Nancy Meyer (What Women Want), the production celebrates Nicholson and Keaton, whose only other film together was the 1981 drama Reds. They are superb in juicy roles that allow them to play to their respective strengths. Keaton’s fretting character displays some traits similar to her characters from the Woody Allen days, but her performance is bright, nimble and fresh. Nicholson’s rakish character is extremely indulgent, but his performance is not. He manages to mix broad physical comedy with a detailed study of a man on the verge of an epiphany. Watching and listening to the veteran acting team is tremendous fun.

3. Beyond their individual work, Nicholson and Keaton have real chemistry together. They make a hot couple and the cinematography of Michael Bullhaus (Gangs of New York) clearly shows that a 66-year-old man and a 50-something woman can be sexy on screen without smearing Vaseline on the camera lens.

4. The story opens with Harry Sanborn (Nicholson), the 63-year-old owner of the rap label Drive-By Records, heading for the Hamptons to spend the weekend with Marin (Amanda Peet), his latest under-30 squeeze, at her mother’s beachfront home. To the horror of pretty much everybody, they discover that Mom is at home. Harry first meets Mom, celebrated Broadway playwright Erica Barry (Keaton), and her sister Zoe (Frances McDormand), when the two walk in while he is rummaging through the refrigerator in his underwear. The encounter does not go well.

Erica’s animosity towards Harry lessens somewhat when he suffers a mild heart attack. His emergency room doctor, Julian Mercer (Keanu Reeves), releases Harry from the hospital only on the condition that he recuperate nearby. How very convenient. When Monday rolls around and Marin returns to NYC for work, Erica ends up being the reluctant caretaker.

But wait, there’s more. Turns out Dr. Julian is a big fan of Erica’s work and, as he makes abundantly clear, a big fan of Erica as a woman. Long accustomed to a solitary life, Erica must deal with the prospect of a romance with a man 20 years her junior. And, as if that weren’t enough, she realizes that her relationship with Harry has somehow moved from chilly to simmering.

5. Although most of the humor is verbal, slapstick is used to great effect, particularly by Nicholson. When Harry inadvertently sees Erica naked, he staggers backward, flinging his forearm over his eyes in some melodramatic attempt to convince her that he was not peeping. Great laughs are drawn from nudity in another scene, set at the hospital, where several people try to protect/contain an out-of-it Harry as he stumbles around a hallway with his bare ass popping from the back of his loosely tied gown. NOTE: At a recent New York press junket attended by the cast, Nicholson was informed that Keaton had said complimentary things about his bottom to a group of writers. “Everyone likes it,” he responded. “It’s the talk of the town, ain’t it?”

6. What a supporting cast! Freed from his Matrix monotone, Keanu Reeves is charming as the love-struck doctor. Amanda Peet (The Whole Nine Yards) is delightful, as always, but is given little to do, which brings me to the aforementioned flaws. Though Reeves and Peet are allotted some time, the bulk of the film is essentially a two-person show starring Nicholson and Keaton, with performers like Frances McDormand, Jon Favreau, Paul Michael Glaser and Rachel Ticotin serving as window dressing. Love seeing so much of Jack and Diane (insert your own John Mellencamp pun here); wish we could have seen more of the others. This is especially true about Starsky and Hutch veteran Glaser, whose on-screen appearances in recent years are rare.

7. Three other flaws. First, the movie is quite talky, with lots of psycho-babble. Second, Nancy Meyers gets her story where it needs to go, then, inexplicably, decides to take it for another lap before wrapping things up. The running time, a little over two hours, is a bit much. Finally, who decided to saddle such a distinctive movie with a generic title? 8. That said, Something’s Gotta Give remains one of the best romantic comedies I’ve seen in years. Incidentally, those who stay in their seats through the closing credits will hear Jack Nicholson crooning “La Vie En Rose” and doing a nice job at it.

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