Giving Their All

Diane Keaton's radiant, Jack Nicholson randy in the sweet, if long, `Something's Gotta Give'

Movie Reviews

December 12, 2003|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Sun Score

3-stars

Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton are so good in Something's Gotta Give, it's a shame writer-director Nancy Meyers couldn't rein herself in a little more.

At 90 minutes, this would have been a top-of-the-line romantic comedy, cleverly written, wonderfully acted and marvelously paced. At two hours, it's still wonderfully acted - Keaton hasn't been this appealing since Annie Hall - but displays a dangerous tendency to drag. Had Meyers done away with some of the twists and turns crammed into the last half-hour, as well as an ending that strains both credulity and patience, she would have had a classic.

Nicholson is Harry Sanborn, a 63-year-old lothario who restricts himself to women under 30. But when he suffers a mild heart attack just before bedding his latest ingenue, Marin (Amanda Peet), circumstances contrive to place him under the care of her divorced fiftysomething mother, Erica Barry (Keaton).

No one, of course, plays lecherousness like Nicholson, whose Harry is rarely without a twinkle in his eye that suggests how steadfastly he refuses to take anything seriously, especially himself. Sure, he likes his ladies young, but maybe not so much because he's attracted to them. Nah, what gives old Harry such a kick is that they're attracted to him.

But then Erica finds her way into his life, and things start to change. She's smart (a successful Broadway playwright), beautiful (Keaton looks positively radiant) and - perhaps most important - wants nothing to do with him. Harry is smitten.

Of course, there are complications. For one, there's this handsome young doctor (Keanu Reeves, no doubt grateful to have shed all the gravitas of The Matrix) who finds Erica alluring and is not shy about letting her know it. And for another, there are Harry's determinedly profligate ways. For years, he's been an old dog content not to learn any new tricks; it's not until he falls under Erica's spell that he sees the need to. But now, it may be too late.

Nicholson may be playing the role on autopilot - essentially, he's the same incorrigible but wise old rebel he was two decades ago in Terms of Endearment - but no one's more fun to watch. As for Keaton, she deserves an Oscar nod for reminding audiences not only what a fine and restrained comic actress she is, but also that you don't stop being sexy at 40. The only drawback to her performance is that it's hard to believe a woman so desirable would have spent so much time alone.

Meyers, who did a similarly comedic take on male-female relations three years ago with What Women Want, has a wonderful ear for dialogue; Harry and Erica's banter is smart and snappy and never forced. But she has a tendency to delve into her bag of tricks too often (one loses count of how many times Harry is rushed to the hospital with a possible heart attack), and she loses sight of the dictum that brevity is the soul of good comedy. There are times when Something's Gotta Give feels labored, about the worst thing one can say about a romantic comedy. There's too much good about this film to make that shortcoming unforgivable, but it sure is unfortunate.

Something's Gotta Give

Starring Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton

Written and directed by Nancy Meyers

Released by Columbia Pictures and Warner Bros.

Rated PG-13 (sexual content, brief nudity and strong language

Time 128 minutes

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