Something's Gotta Give
M O V I E   R E V I E W   B Y   G A R Y   J O H N S O N

Nancy Meyers has been writing and producing movies for over twenty years, and during that time she has carved out a niche for herself with light comedies that revolve around romance or family matters, movies such as Father of the Bride and Baby Boom. During the past five years she has added the role of director to her resume, with movies such as The Parent Trap and What Women Want. Her movies are always pleasant and cheerful -- maybe to a fault. You'll find little angst here. Comic frustration? Yes. Light-hearted chaos? Yes. Meyers loves to see her characters squirm in compromising situations. Think of Steve Martin in Father of the Bride or Diane Keaton in Baby Boom. Meyers likes to gently poke fun at her characters, but she rarely ridicules them. She wants us to sympathize with her lead characters because their plights are our plights (i.e., the plights of upper-middle-class Americans).

Meyers new film, Something's Gotta Give, follows this same format while focusing on the romantic entanglements that ensue when a mid-50s playwright (Diane Keaton) finds herself falling in love with a 62-year-old playboy (Jack Nicholson). Hollywood rarely gives us stories about romance among the 50-plus crowd. With a single-minded zeal, Hollywood has focused on stories about young adults, 18-30, leaving little room for movies about adults with graying hair and sagging body parts. So it's encouraging to see Something's Gotta Give buck the trend and risk alienating the younger crowd with a movie that young adults might not care about seeing. But certainly a few 30-plus adults still go to movies, right?

Something's Gotta Give isn't a particularly daring comedy, but it does subvert some of the conventions that Hollywood has espoused in recent years, such as the predilection of young women for older men. Here, Meyers begins by giving us a movie that fits the typical Hollywood format: Nicholson plays a horndog who habitually confines himself to young women, and the movie complies by giving him a beautiful young girlfriend (Amanda Peet). Their attempt at a tryst is foiled when her mother (Keaton) and aunt (Frances McDorman, in a wonderful performance) show up at the family's summerhouse in the Hamptons. Everyone agrees to be adult about the situation and bear it as best they can by sharing the house. This lasts only until Nicholson and Peet prepare for a night of amour -- when he is stricken with a heart attack. He is rushed to a hospital, where a handsome young doctor (Keanu Reeves) immediately recognizes Keaton as a famous playwright and showcases a strong interest in her (turning the older-male/young-female equation upside down). Unfortunately for Reeves and Keaton, however, Nicholson is released from the hospital only under the condition that he recuperate nearby (i.e., at the beach house) instead of returning to the city. In the process, thrown together in the same house -- with waning interest from his young girlfriend -- Nicholson and Keaton (or rather "Jack & Diane" as the movie's posters suggest) find themselves enjoying each other's presence. He enjoys her strength and wit, and she sees a warmth in him that surprises her. They both feel as if they have discovered soul mates. But old horndogs don't change easily, so problems soon follow that threaten to destroy the romance.

With its numerous partner exchanges, Something's Gotta Give resembles an updated version of A Midsummer Night's Comedy, as written by Neil Simon, with a large beach house serving as a magical forest for the romantic entanglements. Accordingly, the movie is filled with outlandish situations, bold coincidences, and machine-gun paced repartee. Unfortunately, the results are pre-fabricated: we know Nicholson and Keaton are destined for each other, so the plot is somewhat predictable. The situation is compromised further by the unconvincing alternative partners offered for the leads. Both Amanda Peet and Keanu Reeves are just too cute and wonderful for words, so they never become credible characters or viable partners. Much of the surrounding movie suffers from this same cuteness problem (a common affliction of Meyers' movies): we get a wonderfully decorated beach house, an idyllic small town, and fashionable restaurants. Everything is nice and pleasant and beautiful. If that's how you like your movies, you'll likely have a blast watching Something's Gottta Give. But this is unchallenging, safe entertainment. It introduces several possible issues, but then disappointingly backs away by delivering generic messages that have little relation to the age of the leads.

The movie's greatest assets are its lead actors. Nicholson and Keaton work great together. In their hands, the movie soars. They give us a convincing romantic pair, and it's a joy to see them work together. Nicholson has thickened around the middle and around his face, but his devilish, impish character has softened so that he's warmer and more compassionate. Keaton has certainly aged well. Wrinkles have encroached on her neck and face, but her body is lithe and shapely. She looks great. Age has made her less flighty than she was in Annie Hall. Now she can be serious and introspective (although Meyers loves to film her when she's laughing). Together, Nicholson and Keaton form one of the best 50s-ish couples to grace an American film in recent years. Theirs is a messy relationship that moves forward in awkward lurches (just like real life) and stumbles dangerously when feelings are suppressed (just like real life). The movie that surrounds them is occasionally insufferably cute, but Nicholson and Keaton stand out.

[rating: 3 of 4 stars]

Studio Web site: Columbia Pictures (
Movie Web site: Something's Gotta Give



Photo credits: © 2003 Columbia Pictures. All rights reserved.