Something's Gotta Give. Columbia Pictures presents a film written and directed by Nancy Meyers. Running time: 124 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for sexual content, brief nudity and strong language). Starring Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Keanu Reeves, Amanda Peet, Frances McDormand, Jon Favreau.

Something's Gotta Give

Writer/director Nancy Meyers has admirable intentions in making Something's Gotta Give. She wants to eschew the typical romantic comedy by placing two older people as the couple. Unfortunately, while this is a rather novel idea, and had the potential be an important entry into the genre, Meyers's script never transcends convention, simply following traditional romantic comedy clichés. Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton manage to pump some life into the proceedings, but even they can't save the film.

Harry Langer (Nicholson) is a 63-year-old record company executive known for his affinity for women under thirty. His latest conquest is Marin Barry (Amanda Peet), an auctioneer at Christie's. While Marin's mother, Erica (Keaton), is away, the two go to her beach house for a wild weekend. But then Erica, as well as her sister, Zoe (Frances McDormand), return early, leaving Harry and Marin in an awkward position. The four decide to stay the weekend, but their plans are foiled when Harry has a heart attack, forcing him to remain at Erica's house, much to her chagrin. Meanwhile, Harry's doctor, Julian (Keanu Reeves, suprisingly charismatic and un-wooden) has developed feelings for Erica.

Initially, Harry and Erica are repulsed by one another. Harry thinks Erica is hopelessly uptight, and Erica views Harry as chauvinistic. But as the two spend more time together, they start to grow on each other, and soon they are in love. But, this being a romantic comedy, things must come between them. In this case, these are Harry's polygamous nature and Julian's advances.

These complications lead to an needlessly protracted sequence in which Harry and Erica are separated for a great period of time. Since all we really want to see is the two together, and since the finale is inevitable, this period is more boring than suspenseful.

It also doesn't help that Erica's other love interest, Julian, is likeable too, and to see him succeed wouldn't be all that bad, really. He has no real flaws, he's charming, and he really is in love with Erica. So when the inevitable occurs, when Harry and Erica end up together, we honestly feel worse for Julian than we feel good for Harry. And, dammit, we shouldn't, not in this kind of movie.

But, for all the film's flaws, it is re-energized whenever Nicholson and Keaton are on screen together. They exude chemistry and charisma, and their scenes together work, even when they shouldn't. Nicholson is his usual rascally self, both sleazy and charming. He can be an ass, but damned if he isn't a likeable ass. He's probably sort of playing himself, and he takes great joy in this role. Keaton is also charming, and really good looking considering her age (57, if I'm not mistaken). It's her best role in years, and she manages to make even her lamest lines of dialogue believable. However, there is one long sequence, in which Keaton is consistantly wracked with sobs, and she doesn't quite pull it off. The delightful Frances McDormand is disappointingly underused.

There's a moment in the film in which Keaton describes something as being "Perfectly...whatever." And that pretty much sums up my feelings for Something's Gotta Give. It has some hilarious moments, some good acting, and it often hints at what it could have been. But ultimately it's just average, and nothing special, really.


© 2003 Matt Noller