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SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE(director/writer: Nancy Meyers; cinematographer: Michael Ballhaus; editor: Joe Hutshing; music: Hans Zimmer; cast: Jack Nicholson (Harry Langer), Diane Keaton (Erica Barry), Amanda Peet (Marin Barry), Keanu Reeves (Julian), Frances McDormand (Zoe Barry), Jon Favreau (Leo), Paul Michael Glaser (David); Runtime: 123; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Nancy Meyers/Bruce A. Block; Columbia Pictures; 2003)
“More disgusting than funny.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A so-called sophisticated romantic comedy from writer/director Nancy Meyers (“What Women Want”/”The Parent Trap”) that features lovers who lack chemistry together, unfunny situations, scenes that lack wit and sophistication, and its comedy pales greatly when compared to the 1930s type of screwball comedies it tried to imitate. It’s supposed to be a sensitive tale about middle-aged lovers learning about love after all these years avoiding any real feelings, and it exalts the worth of a fiftysomething woman. It wags its finger at lecherous older men dating younger women, and reverses this by showing a younger man in hot pursuit of an older woman. A big deal is actually made that a commitment to love is found between two who are actually in the same older age bracket. But the film’s serious intentions are poorly scripted and the flat portrayals and general sitcom feel of this stagnant story seemed to be pandering to the lowest levels of humor, as this commercial film couldn’t get off the mark without inane or preachy dialogue and juvenile gags such as laughing at a bare-assed Jack Nicholson or at Nicholson recoiling at the bare bosoms of Diane Keaton or at some stupid hard-on jokes. There was not one sophisticated line that drew laughs in a film that was desperately trying to be both serious and funny and, at the same time, appealing to an older audience. It didn’t help that all the New Age figures weren’t likable or the supporting stars were either uninteresting stock characters or that the potentially funny second-banana role of Frances McDormand was underutilized. This slightly over two hour film was poorly paced, had too much filler material, and was so dumbed down it would probably insult any sophisticates it might have in its audience.

The film opens with the sixty-three year old record company mogul Harry Sanborn (Nicholson), an avowed bachelor playboy with a reputation for going out with only cute younger women, arriving with his latest thirtysomething doll, Marin (Peet), at her famous playwright mother’s swanky Hampton beach house for a weekend of sex. But the fun is spoiled when Harry is spotted by Marin’s mom Erica Barry (Diane Keaton), an uptight divorcee in her late fifties, and her college prof sister Zoe (Frances McDormand); this banal sitcom mixup situation is mined for all the usual dumb type of comedy it inspires (all it needed was a laugh track), as mom wasn’t supposed to be at the house and Harry has to explain himself as mom makes frantic gestures at the wide age differentiation between her daughter and Harry. After much to do about nothing, all four decide to stay on and behave like adults–something these characters are never able to do, unless they take all adults for screaming idiots with uncontrollable urges and appetites only for Zabar’s gourmet foods.

Harry suffers a mild heart attack just as he and Marin begin their sexual foreplay, and he’s rushed to the hospital where he’s treated by Dr. Julian Mercer (Reeves). He’s a handsome thirty-six year old bachelor who is not attracted to Marin as would be logical, but who’s a fan of Erica’s work as well as attracted to the writer herself. When Harry is discharged he stays over in Erica’s to further recuperate while Marin returns to Manhattan to do art auctions at Christie’s. This gives Erica and Harry quality time to discover they like each other and that Harry is good in bed as long as he takes his Viagra. The twist is that Julian has the hots for Erica and she shows an interest because she can never be sure of her Harry. Erica is allowed this freedom of choice because her daughter fell in love with another during this short day or two they are separated, and Harry responds by choosing mother over daughter. To say all this stuff is implausible might be fine if this were funny–but it was more disgusting than funny. There was nothing amusing about this contrivance to make things difficult for the potential lovers as it went through the motions of getting to the inevitable final embrace between Erica and Harry, and showing that indeed two middle-aged people can fall in love and overcome their fear of commitment. What a surprise that was!

But this film wasn’t just bad, it had an irritating quality throughout that made you want to really hate what it stands for and resent its insincerely delivered message. This self-declared brilliant playwright writes a hit Broadway play about her romance with Harry and in some nervy declaration, Dr. Julian exclaims how great it was–surely a rave review not merited. I got news for Nancy Meyers, this movie wasn’t brilliant and in fact it stunk. It might not be the worst film of the year, but it would be a strong candidate for one of the worst films. Also, Nicholson has been recently in too many lame films like this one, where this lecherous older actor thinks he can still drive every young starlet crazy with his sex appeal. Get over it Jack, it’s not happening anymore.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”