Something's Gotta Give
Director : Nancy Meyers
Screenplay : Nancy Meyers
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2003
Stars : Jack Nicholson (Harry Sanborn), Diane Keaton (Erica Barry), Frances McDormand (Zoe Barry), Keanu Reeves (Julian Mercer), Amanda Peet (Marin), Jon Favreau (Leo), Paul Michael Glaser (Dave), Rachel Ticotin (Dr. Martinez), Marjie Gum (Annie), Kadee Strickland (Kristen)
The issue of age is one that is usually left out of romantic comedies entirely. If one were to believe the world of this staple cinematic genre, one would have to assume that virtually no one above the age of 35 ever falls in love or has any romantic entanglements of any kind. And, if there is a primary character over that age, it is invariably the male lead, and his romance with a significantly younger woman is always uncommented on, which, of course, only resolidifies our cultural assumption that men improve with age while women just get old.
Writer/director Nancy Meyers aims to redress that problem in Something's Gotta Give, a lively romantic comedy that is sometimes clever, often hilarious, but overlong. Meyer has been writing jaunty sitcom movies for more than 20 years, including Private Benjamin (1980), Baby Boom (1988), and Father of the Bride (1991), all of which include interesting female characters, but still hew closely to a conservative notion of female power. Something's Gotta Give is no different, in that it celebrates independent female strength, but asserts that said strength is ultimately at the whim of the heart.
Meyers' writing is clever and often intriguing, particularly in her dialogue (she also makes fantastic use of instant text messaging as a plot device), but her biggest coup here is her casting, which fulfills Hollywood expectations of marquee appeal while also slyly playing with the lines between fiction and reality. Jack Nicholson, long-known in the tabloids as a randy bachelor who much prefers the company of women half his age, plays Harry Sanborn, a randy bachelor who much prefers the company of women half his age. When the film opens, the 63-year-old is involved with Marin Barry (Amanda Peet), who is not yet 30. Like the chauvinistic Mel Gibson character in Meyers' What Women Want (2000), Harry is a man who could use a little work.
Harry and Marin drive out to the Hamptons for a weekend at the summer home of Marin's mother, only to find that said mother is there when she isn't supposed to be (which leads to one of the movie's funniest scenes, in which Harry is assumed to be a burglar even though he's rummaging through the refrigerator in his underwear). Marin's mother is Erica Berry (Diane Keaton), a divorced, late-50ish award-winning playwright who is already well on her way to becoming a spinster and doesn't really care. She is well-versed in the ways of the world, and while she is put off by Harry's misogynistic charm and even more put off by her daughter's involvement with him, she deals with the situation as best she can.
The situation, though, becomes infinitely more complicated when Harry has a minor heart attack. He is taken to the hospital where the situation is complicated further with the introduction of Dr. Julian Mercer (Keanu Reeves), a fundamentally decent and handsome young doctor who is immediately smitten with Erica. Dr. Mercer prescribes bed rest for Harry, who winds up recuperating in Erica's guest bedroom while Marin heads back to the city, thus leaving them alone. Opposites attract, as the old adage goes, and the middle portion of Something's Gotta Give generates both laughs and sentiment as Harry and Erica cope with each other (she doesn't want him smoking in the house, he doesn't want her nitpicking his behavior), begin to like each other, and eventually fall in love.
It is in this section of the film that Nicholson and Keaton really shine, as they are both required to fill an enormous performative range, from comic mugging, to crying, to stolen glances at each other. Harry, having been shaken by his heart attack, is at a new place in life, and he is clearly less shaken by his brush with mortality than with his newfound attraction to a woman within a decade of his own age, not to mention that attraction's morphing into genuine affection. Nicholson and Keaton's big sex scene is an absolute riot, for both its jokiness about late-life sexuality and its carefree abandon, but Meyers scores a real emotional coup with something as simple as Harry wanting to try sleeping next to Erica afterwards. There's a genuine sweetness beneath every randy moment in Something's Gotta Give, and it's a reminder that sexuality without humanity can be a really ugly thing.
Something's Gotta Give's third act, which involves Harry and Erica's falling apart and her turning their escapades into a comic play, is not nearly as lively or as engaging, and it drags out longer than needed. The love triangle with Dr. Mercer is also somewhat awkward, despite a genuinely good performance by Keanu Reeves that convinces us that this younger, clearly in-demand bachelor would be so enamored with an older woman, something you just don't see very often in the movies. But, one thing you do often see in the movies is reconciliation and closure, and Something's Gotta Give definitely has that, as it offers full redemption for both Harry and Erica, eventually giving them their moment in Paris. That Harry is ultimately reduced to a goofy, grinning grandfather-type by the film's closing credits is testament to the film's warm, conservative appeal.
Copyright © 2004 James Kendrick