Something's Gotta Give (2003) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sexual content, brief nudity and language
Running Time: 117 min.
Cast: Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Keanu Reeves, Amanda Peet, Frances McDormand, Jon Favreau, Paul Michael Glaser, Rachel Ticotin
Director: Nancy Meyers
Screenplay: Nancy Meyers
Review published December 18, 2003
Something's Gotta Give marks the fourth Nancy Meyers penned script featuring Diane Keaton (Manhattan Murder Mystery, Manhattan), and if there's one thing Meyers knows, it's what best fits Keaton's style. The other three productions, Baby Boom, Father of the Bride and its sequel, were directed by Meyers' husband and longtime collaborator, Charles Shyer, but this is Meyers first stab at fully writing and directing her own work. Her previous two directorial stints, the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap and the smash hit, What Women Want, were very successful at the box office, and Meyers has shows a flair for handling crowd-pleasing comedy with relative comfort. With a sure thing in Keaton, and bolstered by another perfect performance by Jack Nicholson (Anger Management, About Schmidt), in a script deliberately written with both of them in mind, Something's Gotta Give is an impressive personality driven piece that is easy to like, mostly because we like the stars enough to forgive the heavy contrivances that necessitate the traditional romantic comedy mold.
The film opens with Nicholson playing Harry Langer, a successful 63-year-old record company entrepreneur and notorious playboy, on his way to his latest girlfriend's beach house for a weekend of long-awaited sexual encounters. The two lovebirds are interrupted by the girl's mother Erica and aunt Zoe (McDormand, City by the Sea), who also have come to stay. The situation is awkward, but they all decide to be adults and share the place without too much fuss, but Harry's weekend stay ends up being much longer when he suffers a heart attack. Alone for many years, during Harry's treatment, Erica meets a young, handsome doctor (Reeves, The Matrix Revolutions) who takes an interest in her, while Harry also finds attraction in a woman over 30 for the first time while in her care. Long dormant feelings begin to emerge in Erica, and she doesn't know how to handle them, having grown accustomed to living a life alone.
About 80% of Something's Gotta Give is wonderful, with outstanding, ingratiating performances by the two leads, who show exceptional screen chemistry for two people who aren't really sure they like each other, much less love. This is one of those cases where I wish I could have had a hand in the editing process, as with some minor snips here and more fleshing out there, this could have been one of the rare romantic comedies that succeeds in also being a damn fine film, regardless of genre. Alas, rather than being another Oscar-caliber film like Nicholson's As Good As It Gets, Meyers goes the safe and predictable route, leaving us with a pleasing, but often overstated, comedy that could have been more resonant if it wasn't cheapened by going for the big laugh all too often. As nit-picky as that sounds, I have to commend Meyers for getting that big laugh most of the time, even if it comes at the expense of the vital truths about the value of an older woman, which is touched upon often, but never honestly explored.
Although there is a lot to like here, much of the film's momentum slows considerably as it approaches the last several scenes, resulting in the inevitable conclusion you would have guessed from the outset. There was a moment where I thought the story could have regained a good deal of intellectual integrity by sticking to a more honest approach, but Meyers, as has been her custom throughout the film, goes for the easiest, broadest road to travel. For a film that goes against the grain so often by upholding age over beauty, it's unfortunate Meyers lacks the courage to give us an honest truth without excessive sugar-coating.
Something's Gotta Give is a joy to watch, so long as you aren't expecting anything but some laughs and to leave the theater smiling. Both Keaton and Nicholson provide Oscar-worthy performances, although the Academy rarely praises comedies, especially ones which are as fluffy as this one ends up being. I would never want to dissuade anyone from seeing this by sounding overly cranky, as I freely admit that I did enjoy the movie quite a bit, and definitely have no qualms in recommending it. My only disappointment comes from this being a film which had the ideas, tools, and talent to be something much more significant than just a delightfully fun time at the movies.
©2003 Vince Leo