When I saw this movie five months ago, I really wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt. And in spite of the obviousness of its plot -- "older women are sexy too" -- the implausibility of its scenarios (not least of which was seeing Keanu Reeves play a cardiologist) and the predictability of its punchlines (Viagra. Need I say more?), I enjoyed myself. Maybe it had to do with how much my mom and all the other women-of-a-certain-age in the audience were enjoying themselves, maybe it was a pre-Christmas vow to quit harshing on everything all the time, but I do remember laughing and I do remember telling others it wasn't bad.
Seeing Something's Gotta Give alone, however, was a completely different experience. Suddenly what seemed entertaining on the big screen seemed grating in the privacy of my own apartment. The premise is a simple one: An award-winning playwright (Diane Keaton) is surprised to find herself entertaining her daughter's scabrous older boyfriend (Jack Nicholson). Boyfriend suffers a heart attack, daughter ditches him to mom's less-than-enthusiastic care and the boyfriend's doctor (Keanu Reeves), being a big fan of the playwright's work, stands around trying to suppress his engorged idol worship.
Screenwriter/producer director Nancy Meyers, also responsible for What Women Want, likes to make Movies with a Message. She likes to find as many hot buttons as she can, cram them into one movie and pretend that she's reinventing male-female relations through the magic of cinema. Which would be fine except that she's just so damn ham-handed about it. Diane Keaton looks great for her age and she is still as engaging and funny as she was in Annie Hall. But Meyers ruins this by constantly driving her point home through endless micro-analyzing conversations culminating in what might be the worst fictional play title ever: "A Woman To Love."
Still, watching the movie again made me remember what I liked about it so much in the first place: Frances McDormand's pony-tailed character Zoe. As Keaton's sister, Zoe is herself a smart, educated and successful older woman who -- unlike Keaton -- goes through the entire movie without one romantic prospect. But does she wig out? Does she talk everyone's ears off about it? No. Instead she bobs in and out of her scenes with a lively self-possession. With her sense of fun intact and a steady supply of eye-rolling expressions, thank god Zoe is there to remind us that age really is a state of mind.
Publication date: 05/06/04