Something’s Gotta Give

Ealasaid/ December 21, 2003/ Movie Reviews and Features

Written and Directed by: Nancy Meyers
Starring: Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Amanda Peet, Keanu Reeves, Frances McDormand
Rated: PG-13 for sexual content, brief nudity and strong language
Parental Notes: youngsters probably won’t get this movie, but it might be educational for teens to see that older people really do have feelings and can fall in love. Mature teens with a good sense of humor will probably enjoy it, even if they can’t identify with most of the characters.

In “Something’s Gotta Give,” Jack Nicholson plays an older man known for dating younger women. Diane Keaton plays an older woman known for writing plays and being single. Some may complain that they’re playing themselves (or parodies of themselves), but the film is so well acted and written that it’s hard to mind too much. This isn’t a thoughtful character study, it’s a fluffy romantic comedy with few surprises other than the ages of its major characters.
Harry Seaborn (Nicholson) is part-owner of a number of record companies and likes to “travel light.” For him, this means he never dates women over the age of thirty, which is just under half his age. As the film opens, he is seeing Marin Barry (Amanda Peet), who thinks he’s “fun” but hasn’t let him sleep with her yet. They go off to her mother’s beach house in the Hamptons for a weekend alone, but are interrupted when Marin’s mother Erica (Keaton) and aunt Zoe (a woefully underused Frances McDormand). After a misunderstanding during which Harry is nearly arrested, they all decide they are mature enough to stay at the house for the weekend together.
Erica isn’t entirely sure she really is mature enough. She’s concerned for her daughter and thinks Harry is a schmuck. Still, she can’t quite bring her self to put her foot down – Marin is a grown woman after all. But when Harry and Marin are finally about to consummate their dating relationship, he has a heart attack and has to be taken to the hospital.
Only in the Hamptons would his doctor be anything like Julian (Keanu Reeves), who is stunningly handsome, impeccably polite, and utterly smitten with Erica from the moment he meets her. He says Harry can’t possibly travel, and as everyone else has to be back in the city for work on Monday, only Erica and Harry are left in the beach house.
Erica, who has hardly dated since her divorce from Marin’s father, finds herself somewhat befuddled by the two men who are soon competing for her affections. Harry isn’t sure how to deal with the emotions filling him after his brush with death, and comes to realize that maybe he doesn’t want to travel light anymore – maybe he wants someone he can really talk with. But it’s hard for him to give up his old way of life, and harder for Erica to accept his past when someone like Julian is waiting in the wings.
The rest of the plot is typical romantic comedy, but with pleasingly intelligent dialog. These people are as real as they can be, given the setup, and it’s novel to see two older people go through the “they hate each other at first, then fall in love” pattern. There’s some hilariously touching comedy in the exchanges between Harry and Erica. “What about birth control?” he asks her at one point. Her answer, “menopause,” is at once wistful and full of glee. Who’d have thought of that as an advantage of falling for an older woman?
There are some genuinely touching moments in “Something’s Gotta Give,” and although poor Dr. Julian serves mostly as a plot device (what kind of thirty-six year old man would yield the love of his life to a competitor without so much as a fight?) the characters are well-drawn and full of life.
It’s almost a shock to see a film with such major names from a major studio portraying older women as beautiful, and it’s to be hoped that “Something’s Gotta Give” is a success. Diane Keaton is radiant, and watching her character open up to love is a pleasure. There aren’t enough good parts for older women in Hollywood, but Erica Barry is definitely one of the few. This is a movie for folks looking for a slightly atypical romantic comedy, but not out for much in the way of intellectual meat.

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