Monday, 26 September 2011

Movie Review: Something's Gotta Give (2003)


A romantic comedy for adults, Something's Gotta Give is the equivalent of spending an evening with old friends: the entertainment flows smoothly, enhanced by good humour, great food, and an inevitable happy ending. It may go on for longer than it needs to, but time spent with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton is always pleasurable.

Harry (Nicholson) is a successful businessman in his 60s, dating the much younger Marin (Amanda Peet). Harry makes no secret of wanting to be in the company of younger women: he finds them much simpler to deal with and significantly less demanding. Marin's mother is the divorced Erica (Keaton), a famous Broadway playwright in her late 50s. Harry and Erica meet at her house in the Hamptons and they develop a healthy mutual dislike: she is uptight and judgemental, while he is all self-satisfied smarm.

But Harry suffers an unexpected mild heart attack and Erica finds herself babysitting him. Gradually they begin to care for each other. Marin notices and happily breaks up with Harry to leave the coast clear for her mother to nurture the romance, but Erica's love life gets further complicated when she also attracts the attention of the young and handsome Julian (Keanu Reeves), the doctor looking after Harry's heart health.

As time passes Harry and Erica fall truly in love, but he finds it difficult to commit and she finds it difficult to trust; for the relationship to survive both will need to take risks and venture into previously fenced-off territory.

Nicholson and Keaton slip into their roles with exquisite ease. They both convincingly depict adults blind-sided by love after having been certain that life carried no further surprises. Nicholson's performance starts with some scenery chewing, but gradually dials back as Harry comes to terms with his mortality and his first great romance. Nicholson holds Harry's hand and gently guides him through a transformation to a man overcoming hubris to plead for Erica's trust and companionship.

Keaton's performance is more nuanced, as is the fate of any role opposite Nicholson. Erica has experienced love and hurt, and has rigidly set-up her defences to prevent any future emotional damage. Initially she sees in Harry exactly the type of man she needs to avoid, but as he knocks down her fortifications she gradually recognizes in him an unlikely second opportunity for a grand romance.

Amanda Peet, Keanu Reeves and Frances McDormand (as Erica's sister) round out a formidable cast, but they do get nudged firmly into the shadows once Nicholson and Keaton take centre stage.

Nancy Meyers wrote, produced and directed Something's Gotta Give, the beginning of her journey to explore romance among mature adults which would continue with 2009's equally appealing It's Complicated. The romance of Harry and Erica takes more than two hours to unfold, and a solid 15 minutes could have been trimmed to remove unnecessary fat. But otherwise, the screenplay has the unmistakable focus of a single author's vision, Meyers putting to shame the all-too-common clumsy scripts written by committee.

Something's Gotta Give is playful, witty and memorable. It may carry some weight around the waist, but that is just in keeping with the realism of its central characters.






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