“Too much noise! Too much noise!”
Who wondered what The Magic of Belle Isle would be if Morgan Freeman‘s surly alcoholic was forced to warm his heart and soul to a young child that was his granddaughter rather than a neighbor? I think Rob Reiner did or else I’m not sure why he’d choose a project that does just that two years later. The man who helmed This is Spinal Tap and the consummate rom/com When Harry Met Sally … appears to simply want to live out his twilight with redundant work touching upon the kindness of strangers more than the fire of new love. I thought Flipped might have been a sign of his rejuvenation in as much as creating films with more plot than goes into Dr. Seuss‘ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but alas, here comes And So It Goes.
It’s shriveled-hearted monster is Oren Little (Michael Douglas), an aging real estate agent who has one more multi-million dollar house to sell before retiring to Vermont: his own. Holed up in a tiny apartment complex with a bunch of neighbors whose lives he revels in making hellish while his estate retains its immaculate presence, life to Oren is verbally sparring with those who dish back (Frances Sternhagen‘s old friend/partner Claire) and those who don’t (Diane Keaton‘s lounge singer Leah). When he isn’t putting back a martini or visiting his wife’s grave that is. He’s the epitome of septuagenarian bachelor until an unexpected visitor arrives asking a favor. It’s been a decade since he’s seen his junkie son Luke (Scott Shepherd), but here he is sober, about to go to jail, and with a ten-year old daughter in tow.
Oren has shut off his emotions—the small ones we’ll allow ourselves to believe he might have had way back when—after his wife’s death so the prospect of watching a little girl isn’t high on his priority list. Luckily for everyone involved, Leah was next door to take the child in while he hid away to hatch a plan for finding her mother and escaping responsibility. With Leah taking young Sarah (Sterling Jerins) maternally under her wing, though, Oren can’t help but interact with those he’d rather chastise from his porch. It inevitably softens him slightly, deciding to be the “nice guy” when the rewards work in his favor. Like any film as sweetly saccharine as this despite its fabricated and harsh curmudgeon’s exterior, his heart must eventually grow at least a couple sizes by the end.
Surprisingly, I had somewhat high hopes before the lights went down due to my discovering screenwriter Mark Andrus had been behind three movies I do enjoy. I couldn’t tell you much about any of them save my liking them at the time they arrived in theaters, but Late for Dinner, As Good as It Gets, and Life as a House have always been on my list of movies to revisit in the future. Unfortunately And So It Goes doesn’t live up to my memory of their drama or emotionality. Maybe it’s because the story itself is flimsy, or perhaps because I’ve seen it so many times before. I joke that it’s pretty much a carbon copy of Belle Isle, but the truth of the matter is that it’s practically the same film only with some romance added in.
And if I’m to be completely honest, that sense of romance is it’s main problem because it comes on too fast. There’s so much going on with periphery plot lines going nowhere that the unorthodox courtship between Oren and Leah comes off as clumsy and false. Remove Kate’s (Annie Parisse) need for a realtor and stick with her sons’ joy at mimicking all the animals they’ve ever met. Keep Kennedy’s (Yaya DaCosta) pregnancy as one more reason to hate Oren due to his making her walk more than a block home after he takes up two parking spaces. All these side characters do their job nicely, but Andrus and Reiner see fit to keep bringing them back to muddy the water and take time away from the relationship that itself isn’t even the film’s primary goal.
No, even the romantic angle is an aside when compared to the need of having Oren accept his role as a man with a family. His accepting Sarah into his life and by extension the son he wrote off is where the movie excels and becomes its shining grace. Jerins appears a bit unsure of herself at times—seeming to look straight at the camera even to gain her balance—but she’s cutely attuned to warming her grandfather’s and our hearts with innocence and love despite being thrown into an insane situation with strangers. Keaton too can be a tad uncertain as to how to play Leah as a three-dimensional widow thanks to the script constantly making her cry at the slightest provocation for cheap laughs, but she gets through it to eventually hold everything together.
There are some nice backstory dramatics involved whether hers or Douglas’ tragic recent pasts, but none really breath for any length of time before the next joke or subplot usurps attention. As a result it all seems to merely play out by-the-numbers like you’d guess it would in your head. There are no surprises—even Frankie Valli‘s cameo for the mostly senior audience I watched it with was ruined by putting his name in the opening credits—and little to really grab hold of besides the question of Oren deciding to leave or stay. One choice would have lent credence to his abrasive personality while the other shows the power of “true love” between enemies in only a few weeks time. The answer lies in the many voices calling the whole thing “cute” by the credits. Sadly, cute isn’t enough.
 Oren (MICHAEL DOUGLAS) and Leah (DIANE KEATON) finally make a connection in AND SO IT GOES. Photo credit: Clay Enos/Clarius Entertainment
 Oren (MICHAEL DOUGLAS), Sarah (STERLING JERINS) and Leah (DIANE KEATON) enjoy an afternoon at an amusement park in AND SO IT GOES. Photo credit: Clay Enos/Clarius Entertainment
 Artie (ROB REINER) pines for lounge singer Leah (played by off-screen DIANE KEATON) while he accompanies her on the piano. Photo credit: Clay Enos/Clarius Entertainment