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Dustin Putman

Dustin's Review

Something's Gotta Give (2003)
3 Stars

Directed by Nancy Meyers
Cast: Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Keanu Reeves, Amanda Peet, Frances McDormand, Paul Michael Glaser, Jon Favreau, Kadee Strickland
2003 – 125 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for sexual situations, brief nudity, and language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, December 13, 2003.

When was the last time you saw a star-studded studio romantic comedy in which both of the lead characters were over the age of 55? If you're hard-pressed to muster up a single title from the last decade, then you're not alone. Exquisitely written and directed by Nancy Meyers (2000's "What Women Want"), "Something's Gotta Give" travels through well-trodded territory, but it miraculously feels fresh because of the ages of the characters, and the intriguing themes that go along with unexpectedly finding a soul mate post-menopause. It only helps to have class acts Jack Nicholson (2002's "About Schmidt") and Diane Keaton (2001's "Town & Country"), in her best performance in many years, inhabiting such richly drawn roles.

At the age of 63, ladies' man Harry Langer (Jack Nicholson) has proudly never slept with a woman over 30. When he goes with his latest girlfriend, Marin (Amanda Peet), up to her family's supposedly empty Hamptons estate for the weekend, they are surprised when her divorced 55-year-old mother, successful playwriter Erica Barry (Diane Keaton), and aunt, Zoe (Frances McDormand), come home to catch them in their underwear. And when Harry suffers a sudden heart attack and is forced to stay in the area while he recuperates, Erica finds herself forced into the role of his caregiver. Erica hasn't been in a relationship since her marriage ended years ago, and as she and Harry find themselves connecting on an unexpectedly deep level, Erica rediscovers a passion in herself that she had long since given up on. Complicating matters is Harry's recluctance to be monogomous, even though the best thing he has ever known is right in front of him, and his young doctor, Julian (Keanu Reeves), who is also attracted to Erica.

"Something's Gotta Give" is witty, smart, and charismatically electric—three vital elements rare to find in most of today's romantic comedies. Stealing the show is an irreverent Diane Keaton, who hasn't been this impressive in a part since her Woody Allen heyday of the 1970s. Her character of Erica is the foremost focal point of the story, and the emotions she finds herself going through as she falls in love when she least expects it are truthful and poignantly funny.

Erica's ultimate love scene with Harry is an undoubted highlight, both sexy and appropriately imperfect as they fumble around in bed trying to get a handle on each other. Their attempt the next morning to read Erica's wristwatch as they squint with their faltering eyes is real and funny. And in the way Erica goes through a relentless crying stage soon after things cool down with Harry, baring her soul in her play, Diane Keaton is downright hilarious, not just because she is a skilled comedic actress, but because she has made Erica a sympathetic, flesh and blood human being.

As Harry, Jack Nicholson is pitch-perfect in the kind of sarcastic signature role he is famous for. At this point, Nicholson could probably play Harry in his sleep (unlike his heartbreakingly understated role in "About Schmidt"), but that doesn't make him any less good at what he can do each time. The top-notch supporting cast includes Keanu Reeves, breaking free from the humorless restaints of "The Matrix" trilogy and really quite likable as the understanding, lovestruck Julian; Amanda Peet (2003's "Identity"), natural as she brings multiple layers to the somewhat thankless role of Marin; and the always entertaining Frances McDormand (2000's "Almost Famous"), seen too little as Erica's tell-it-like-it-is younger sister, Zoe.

"Something's Gotta Give" runs just over two hours—usually far too long for a romantic comedy—and it is a testament to the strong material writer-director Nancy Meyers has cooked up for her actors that the film never overstays its welcome. Its only misstep is an ending that bypasses a potentially more emphatic conclusion for an obvious, predictable outcome. Without giving things away, one has to wonder if the choice Erica makes at the end is the right one, or just another setup for disappointment. It is a small debit, indeed, in a motion picture as consistently entertaining, soft-hearted, and emotionally satisfying as "Something's Gotta Give." People over the age of fifty do have sex lives, too, and Hollywood's acknowledgment of this fact was long overdue.
© 2003 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman