Judge Eric Profancik recoils at the thought of Diane Keaton naked, but other than that, rather enjoyed this atypical romantic comedy.
"It's an epidemic."
Diane Keaton's character, Erica Barry, is absolutely correct in her assertion: it is an epidemic. I've lost count of how many movies have thrust upon the audience a May-December romance: Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones in Entrapment, Harrison Ford and Anne Heche in Six Days Seven Nights, Tommy Lee Jones and Anne Heche (again) in Volcano, and how about Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow in A Perfect Murder? In all truth, I hate the May-December romance on the big screen (and in real life too). Seeing some old actor being paired with an actress half his age is unsettling, disturbing, and also somewhat nauseating. Give me pairings that make sense, like Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo in The Thomas Crown Affair. I prefer to see couples of approximately the same age frolicking and having fun, not some old sugardaddy and his young chickie-poo. I enjoyed Something's Gotta Give because it playfully examines this abomination of nature and extols the virtues of courting someone your own age.
Facts of the Case
Harry Sanborn (Jack Nicholson, Batman, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) is a famed New York bachelor. In his mid-sixties and never married, Harry partakes in exclusively dating women under the age of thirty. His current fling is with Marin (Amanda Peet, Identity, The Whole Nine Yards), a young lady he met during a wine auction at Christie's. The two make a last-minute decision to go to Marin's mother's Hamptons home for the weekend. Believing the place to be theirs, Harry and Marin start getting frisky. No sooner do the pants come off than Erica, Marin's mother, and Zoe (Frances McDormand, Fargo), Marin's aunt, arrive at the house. It turns out that Erica, a famous Broadway playwright, had planned to come up to the country to do some writing.
After the initial confusion and shock of Harry and Marin being together has subsided, it is decided that all four of them, as reasonable, progressive, intelligent adults, will spend the weekend together. That evening, after a stimulating meal, Harry and Marin amble off to the bedroom where, at the onset of some new friskiness, Harry has a heart attack. Harry is rushed to the hospital, where he is expertly tended to by Dr. Julian Mercer (Keanu Reeves, The Matrix). The doctor is able to tell the three ladies that Harry will be fine, but he needs some rest. Julian doesn't want Harry to travel, and Harry doesn't want to stay in the hospital. With a bit of arm-twisting, it's agreed that Harry will stay at Erica's for a few days.
In classic movie fashion, everyone abandons Erica so that she is left to tend to the dirty old man. She finds Harry both repulsive and compelling, while he hasn't given Erica a first thought. But as the hours pass, the two begin to talk and get acquainted. In no time, the divorced Erica is warming up to Harry while Harry is astonished to find himself interested in an older woman. Soon enough, a possible relationship evolves, but then Harry is found healthy and heads back to the city.
Back in the Hamptons, Dr. Mercer, an avid fan of Erica's work, is making the moves on her. Being some twenty years older than him, Erica doesn't miss the irony of the role reversal. But as Dr. Mercer woos Erica, she finds herself missing that crotchety old man who surprised her with his soulfulness. With new inspiration, Erica begins to adapt the recent events into her next Broadway play.
With Harry in the city and Erica in the country, do they have any chance at a future together?
As much as I despise the concept of the May-December romance, I kept Something's Gotta Give on my personal back burner as something to see. The trailer made it look appealing, and when I finally did get around to watching it, I really enjoyed this film. On the whole, there's not much new going in this film. What is new is the breaking of the illogical pattern of old men and young women. Something's Gotta Give pokes fun at the trend, spins it around, and gives you a couple you can root for. Hurray for Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton! It's a great pairing! These are two people that look right for each other. These are two people you wouldn't make fun if you saw them in a crowd.
But beyond this is the simple pleasure of the film itself. Briskly paced and whimsically crafted, Something's Gotta Give is a light and fluffy adventure that is delightfully entertaining. The film never takes itself seriously as it playfully dances around the problems of our main characters. And playful is definitely the best term for this film. Subtly teasing you and pulling you along, the film is a quaint romantic comedy. Going against convention, our older couple "acts" like two younger people who are courting. Let me clarify: they aren't acting immature or juvenile; they're acting like young, inexperienced adults. Though both are advanced in years, neither has much experience with serious dating. Harry is the carefree bachelor who never wanted to settle down, and Erica is the workaholic who married the man she had the most contact with. Now that they've stumbled across each other, each displays great trepidation in how to proceed. And it's really cute. It's a bit schmaltzy, it's a bit syrupy, and it's a bit corny. But it's also charming to see older people acting in such a manner, tiptoeing around, trying to impress the other. I chuckled many a time as the two felt their way along.
When I finished watching the movie, I came to the conclusion that, as light and fluffy as this romantic comedy is, it may not appeal to its stereotypical audience. We all know that romantic comedies zero in on females (and their unwitting boyfriends), and that most moviegoers are under thirty. I don't believe those under thirty will really care for Something's Gotta Give. I think this movie skews to a slightly more mature, older audience. Younger people may not be interested in seeing our older characters find each other and do some playful courting. Still, that's a broad generalization and not a hard and fast rule.
As a guy, I'm not supposed to like romantic comedies. Movies such as these are food for the female soul, but this one tickled my fancy. I liked the dismantling of the May-December romance, but I truly enjoyed the fine acting from the ensemble cast. But let me give the one negative before I go any further: Amanda Peet. At times, she holds herself well against the rest of the cast, yet most of the movie she just doesn't feel right for the part. As Harry's latest interest, she's lacking something. She's not awful, but she is greatly overshadowed by the wealth of talent around her…like Frances McDormand. Forever Marge Gunderson to me, McDormand has a very small part in this film, but, still, she has a few wonderful moments that propel the film. She's excellent in her scenes, and I wished there had been more for her to do. Keanu is surprisingly good in his somewhat small role as Erica's young love interest. Luckily I haven't forever typecast him as Neo, so I can accept him in other roles. He does a very nice job in trying to woo the older woman.
And speaking of the older woman, Diane Keaton is amazing. She completely embraced her character, making me believe that she was the shy, awkward, yet powerful woman. Her skills come to fruition as we watch Erica start as the solid and frosty divorcée and then thaw and transform into a warm, vibrant, and passionate woman. Any intelligent man could easily become enamored of this woman, who, incidentally, looks fabulous in a little black dress.
And then there's Jack Nicholson, the lucky man. It's hard to describe Jack as anything but "Jack," and in Something's Gotta Give, there's a lot of "Jack." But that's not all there is to his performance, and he becomes a man confronting love for the first time. You see his surprise, his joy, his nervousness, and his heartbreak as he works to put it all into perspective. He's funny; he's playful; he's soft and caring; and he's Jack.
Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic, there are a few problems with the video transfer that are nearly unacceptable these days. The biggest problem is that there are several instances, namely during a bright, outdoor scene, where you can see vertical "streaks" in the print. These streaks or bleach-like stains moved (ala lines on a highway) and were quite noticeable. I'm not sure how something like that slipped through the cracks. Beyond that, I found the print just a bit on the soft side, with too bright of a palette. I can't say I noticed any other grain, dirt, or enhancement, so it's far from a total loss.
For the audio, you have a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that serves this dialogue-intensive film very well. You'll never have any problems understanding a single word, and you may even appreciate the attempt at using the other channels for some added ambiance. It's nicely done.
There is a small assortment of bonus features to round out the package:
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The light and playful nature of the film might be misconstrued as boring by some. Even I'll admit I got a bit squeamish at times, as our two older actors began to get a bit frisky. I'd much rather watch younger actors get it on than Jack and Diane. Still, it's worth it to watch these two veterans have so much fun in their roles…at least until the second act. Later on in the film, things take a slightly more serious turn. It's not heavy drama, but once Harry leaves the Hamptons, I found myself not as captivated by the tale. The story lost some of its wistfulness, trying to expand the situation. It would have been a far better choice to retain the light and fluffy texture throughout.
Sometimes in your life, it's good to be surprised. Woohoo, I won the lottery! Other times, a little surprise is just too much…say when Diane Keaton gets naked in a film. (Not as earth shattering as a Kathy Bates, but still…) And, in other cases, a little surprise is way too much…say when Jack Nicholson bares his bottom in a film…three times! That one elicited a definite audible yelp on my part! What is the fixation with "old nudity" lately? I mean, Diane looks fantastic in a little black dress, but not quite so fantastic out of it.
Then there's the question about the film's title, Something's Gotta Give. What is the relevance of the title? I really can't see how it all fits into this film. What has to give? Give for what? To what? I don't know!
With a questionable video transfer, mediocre bonus materials, and a topic that may bore some, I'm not going to recommend this one for purchase; however, I give it a big fat recommendation for rental. I really liked the playful nature of the film, turning the May-December romance on its head. Coupled with strong performances from the cast, this can make a great date film. Give it a try.
Something's Gotta Give is hereby found not guilty on the charge of lewd conduct with a young adult. All parties are free to go.
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• Audio Commentary with Director Nancy Meyer, Producer Bruce Brock, and Diane Keaton
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