REVIEW: Something’s Gotta Give [2003]

“Sorry, you’re granddad will be okay”

Being given Something’s Gotta Give because of what my friend said were major similarities to Nancy Meyers’s latest film It’s Complicated, I wasn’t prepared for Crazy Town’s ‘Butterfly’ to be blaring amongst a collage of beautiful women using their wiles to gain access to nightclubs and turn heads on the streets at the start. But then Jack Nicholson’s voiceover enters the fray and it starts to make sense being he is a hip hop mogul with a penchant for women under 30—as in he’s never dated someone older. Soon he is shown with girlfriend Amanda Peet as they arrive at her mother’s vacation home for some fun under the sun and the sheets. Then Mom comes in, throwing a wrench into the weekend and all their lives. A heart attack later and he begins to soften up to a fifty year old, the young girl starts looking to a future of stability, and mother and playwright Diane Keaton finds a love she thought was gone after her divorce with both an older man and one twenty years her junior.

Fortunately, Meyers seems to be someone that knows how to get a romantic comedy to have enough story and laughs for the male persuasion to have a good time. So often these types of films are phony and flimsy in plot that if you aren’t a woman looking for romantic bliss or more reasons to despise the crude, cheats men are often portrayed as, you’ll be in hell watching them. Like It’s Complicated, which is better in my opinion, this 2003 film is quite entertaining, showing a slice of heightened life with contrivances that do their best to seem natural instead of blatantly obvious. There is still the problem of setting it with the lives of rich people, though. By creating characters with money, not only are they allowed to have the time to be fluent in French, or own beachfront property, but they can be self-employed writers and producers that never have to go into an office, freeing them from the constraints of actual life. Maybe viewers of this genre like the escapism of seeing how the better half live—going to fancy dinners, vacationing in Paris on a whim, and not worrying about ambulance trips to the emergency room for panic attacks since health insurance is fully covered. To me, I really have to suspend disbelief and accept the lifestyle as a way to make the scriptwriting easier, but once I do, I can finally settle in.

If these characters, Nicholson’s Harry and Keaton’s Erica, aren’t affluent, they could never have the week together to form the main relationship driving the entire movie. She has writer’s block and he is just going through life living fast without worrying about the consequences, so his heart attack keeping him under house arrest with her—a complete stranger more or less—can feasibly occur. And, of course, the opportune meeting of a hunky doctor that is literate in critical Broadway hits, allowing for the inversed courting of young man with senior woman, can only happen on Long Island’s most wealthy end. In fact, I really thought Keanu Reeves pulled the role off quite well, showing his affection for Keaton and his affable demeanor in the hospital. A guy with a California ‘dude’ accent practicing in the Hamptons, however, is a bit of a stretch. These coincidences could be looked upon in two ways, though, as lazy writing using money as a way to conveniently cause chance encounters and lengthy stretches of time together, or as good writing, weaving it all together in way that makes the machinations invisible. I, perhaps surprisingly, turn to the latter, because, honestly, I didn’t necessarily become bothered with the ease of it all until the film was over. So if it worked seamlessly while watching, I’ll give it the credit of being a success.

Truthfully, I enjoyed this film. Both Nicholson and Keaton are masters at their craft, even if the roles they play here might be very similar to their real life personas. We all know Jack is a womanizer and Keaton generally stays out of the limelight, working sporadically, so who really knows how much acting they had to do. Either way, I bought into their feelings of disgust or ambivalence towards each other on first impression, and I completely believed their eventual warming to each other as they caught glimpses of the people behind the facades that have taken over their lives. In fact, I was pretty invested in the story right up until about three quarters in; right when Keaton starts crying for about fifteen straight minutes. I didn’t think anyone could do intense sorrow and tears worse than early Claire Danes, but here I am proven wrong. I understood why she feels this way and why the tears become a catalyst for her creative juices flowing and completing her new play, but I was totally taken out of the story, cringing at the performance, hoping to get back on track soon.

Despite that misstep, the middle third is quite engaging and fun to watch. It’s not giving anything away to say that our two leads eventually do get together, that’s what the movie is about, so I won’t feel too bad talking about the event. It is a very endearing exchange full of realism in their awkwardness with each other. He has never been with an aged woman and she hasn’t been with anyone after her marriage had ended. They are like nervous youths together, sweetly saying and doing things they never would have imagined doing before making love. When else will the woman leave the room to get a blood pressure gauge first, or the answer to his question of birth control be menopause? It was a great scene from start to finish, especially in its display of their two disparate worlds. There is no better way to complete the night than with the words, “I want to try and sleep with you,” after sex is over. Sometimes ‘sleeping’ with someone does mean just that.

At the end of the day, if Something’s Gotta Give has taught me anything, it’s that a film by Nancy Meyers shouldn’t be unjustly disregarded. The work isn’t anything extraordinary, but it does contain enough interest to watch without derision. By getting the relationship aspect correct, whether between young and old or equal ages, she has the knack of rising above the genre’s shortcomings, even relaying some words of wisdom in the process. I may not agree with the very end—ruining what I thought was a perfect conclusion for the feel-good finale you assume will occur before you start watching the film—yet it does follow the words Keaton has for her daughter. She says how she “let someone in and had the time of my life,” then asking, “What are you waiting for?” No truer line is spoken in the film, because that feeling is wonderful and no amount of heartbreak later on can take it away.

Something’s Gotta Give 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

photography:
[1] Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give – 2003
[2] Keanu Reeves as Julian in Something’s Gotta Give – 2003

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