Something's Gotta Give
is funny, watching Something's Gotta Give, you can't help but realize
how strangely revolutionary it is. It is a serious love story, with
major stars and commercial aspirations, about people over fifty. These
are people who may have a little paunch and some gray in their hair and
wrinkles and who are very set in their ways. It explores how
frightening, but potentially rewarding, it can be to open themselves up to
something they had long thought was past them... romantic love. And in
doing so, perhaps negate everything they had come to believe about their
shouldn't be so rare to have a movie like this in Hollywood, but it is.
Diane Keaton plays Erica Barry. She is a brilliant and successful
playwright (no, that isn't an oxymoron) who lives in a gorgeous beach house
in the Hamptons. She is a recent divorcé who is still cordial with her
ex (Paul Michael Glaser... yes, the guy who played Starsky!) to the
point that he still directs all her plays. Her life is very controlled
and orderly. She is comfortable. But, she has cut herself off
from feeling, from passion. She is deathly afraid to take the chance
of getting hurt again.
Nicholson has great fun playing with his image as a ladies man in the
character of Harry Langer. Harry is a commitment-phobic entrepreneur
who has made a fortune in a series of entertainment companies, his current
gig is co-owner of a record label that specializes in hip hop. Harry
will only date women in their twenties and thirties, perhaps knowing that
there will never be any future in them, just a short spectacular explosion
of lust. He has become a sort of human art collector, skipping from
one beauty to the next, never stopping to appreciate the one he has.
Fortunately for him, Harry has the charm and the bankroll that he can win
over these girls on the short term. Harry is the living embodiment of
the immortal words of novelist Thomas McGuane; "I like young girls.
Their stories are shorter."
Erica and Harry meet strictly by accident. Actually, Harry is dating
Erica's beautiful daughter Marin (Amanda Peet). They sneak up to
Erica's house for their first weekend of sex, believing that Erica won't be
there. Of course, Erica and her sister (Frances McDormand) are
there. They all try to co-exist civilly,
though Erica and her sister (a women's studies professor) sort of gang up on Harry about his lothario
ways. When Harry has a mild heart attack while in the bedroom with
Marin, he is forced by his doctor (Keanu Reeves) to stay at the house for a
few days to recuperate.
Erica is horrified that she is going to have to be nursemaid to Harry for
this time, but she does agree to do it. At first they drive each other
crazy, but eventually Harry and Erica start to talk and to relate.
Harry's doctor turns out to be a huge fan of Erica's work. He sets
about aggressively courting her. Harry gives her advice on dating the
younger man, but it is obvious that, probably for the first time in his
life, Harry is becoming interested in a woman near his own age. After
a while, Harry's insight and charm has Erica thinking about him
movie is somewhat geared towards women, and does have a tendency to push it's own agenda at the expense of the
characters. It vilifies Harry (as well as Erica's ex-husband) for dating women who are significantly younger than
them, and yet when Keaton dates the significantly younger doctor Keanu, it
is applauded as a way that she is coming to terms with finally living her
life. When Harry finally realizes that he wants to commit to Erica,
his character is forced to go through a sort-of twelve step program on his
old ways before he can be deemed worthy of her.
Keaton's writer sometimes has to act a little out of character to prove the
points of the film, too. Erica is always shown to be together and in
control of her life, but when she finally gives and gets hurt, she goes on a
monumental crying jag that seems to last for weeks. Also, the whole
idea of a playwright creating a play as therapy by quoting verbatim from the
relationship has kind of been done to death. In fact, years ago Keaton
had it done to her character in Annie Hall (1977), so she should know
coincidental plot points that promote monogamous relationships keep on
coming. Daughter Marin essentially fixes up her mother and the guy she
was dating. Later, after Erica explains to Marin, another determined
commitment-phobe, that after all the highs of love are worth the pain, Marin
gets married and pregnant within three months. When we finally come to
the beautiful climax in Paris, where Erica must decide between Harry and the
doctor, one of the characters seems to bow out awfully quickly. (And
I'll bet that you can guess which one...)
Something's Gotta Give is far from a perfect film. However, it is
mostly very smartly written and the cast is top-notch. Most
importantly, seeing Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson performing at the top of
their game erases any problems that the film has. Their natural
chemistry makes this possibly the most affecting love story of the
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2003 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: December 13, 2003.