Victor, Mature

Middle-aged Diane Keaton wins Jack Nicholson away from the young 'uns in Something's Gotta Give.

Something's Gotta Give Opens Friday.
Diane Keaton chooses old guy Jack Nicholson over young hunk Keanu Reeves. Go figure.
Diane Keaton chooses old guy Jack Nicholson over young hunk Keanu Reeves. Go figure.
To get the obvious out of the way first: Something's Gotta Give is a film designed to appeal to older women, and it very likely will. Diane Keaton gives a good performance in it, as a post-menopausal playwright who gets back in touch with her libido. The movie will probably make lots of money.

Not that it really deserves to. Everything about Something's Gotta Give can be deduced by looking at its poster -- or even by a vague passing knowledge of its stars, Keaton and Jack Nicholson. Keaton in real life is a single woman who opined in a recent Entertainment Weekly interview that she'll probably never get married; Nicholson, an aging jet-setter who rarely dates women over 30. It's pure fantasy to imagine Keaton or someone like her breaking Jack of that habit, but fantasy is why we have movies, right?

If the wish-fulfillment is truly one for older women, though, why have Keaton end up with Jack, when she could have Keanu Reeves? Playing a 35-year-old doctor infatuated with Keaton's character, Erica Barry, Reeves, believe it or not, actually appears to be acting. Perhaps he's just relieved that no one's jerking him around on wires or jamming power cords into the back of his head anymore, but his relaxed performance here ranks among his very best, and that's a short list. Anyway, his character is genuinely nice to Erica and really attracted to her from the get-go, but apparently even older women prefer the bad boy -- Jack may be obnoxious and sleazy, but once again, he's faced with a woman who makes him want to be a better man. That worked out well for him a few years back, so behold, the same shtick anew. Apologies for the blatant use of movie titles in sentences, like a quote-whore, but it's apropos here: This kind of by-the-numbers performance truly isn't As Good as It Gets, and indeed, one imagines, Something's Gotta Give (this title, by the way, is utterly meaningless -- nowhere in the movie does anyone say it or refer to it as a theme).

The most amusing thing about this alleged comedy is the way the MPAA has ended up tacitly proving the film's point, namely, that society wrongly assumes older women can't be sexy. To wit: Diane Keaton actually delivers a full frontal nude shot . . . and the movie gets a PG-13 rating! If Amanda Peet, who plays Keaton's daughter, did the same, it would have been an instant R (see The Whole Nine Yards and Igby Goes Down). The ratings board apparently assumes that naked middle-aged women aren't as problematic for children to see as those of a younger age -- is this because Jack Valenti and company assume it won't be considered erotic? One hates to put words in anyone else's mouth, but it's hard to draw any other conclusions.

One curious aspect of Nicholson's character, Harry Sanborn, is that he's supposed to be the CEO of a hip-hop label called Drive-By Records. Let that sink in for a moment. Jack Nicholson. Listening to hip-hop. Cue bad flashback to Steve Martin, trying to talk ebonics in Bringing Down the House. Wonder if writer-director Nancy Meyers (What Women Want) knows the first thing about hip-hop -- for one thing, there doesn't appear to be any on the soundtrack, and no, Crazy Town's nü-metal hit, "Butterfly," doesn't count. If you're a real glutton for punishment or just a fan of celebrity novelty songs, stick around for the end credits to hear Jack Nicholson sing "La Vie en Rose." No joke -- apparently there was a karaoke scene that (mercifully) got deleted from the final cut, and the song has been preserved for your, uh, enjoyment.

Anyway, Nicholson's dating Amanda Peet in this movie, only right as they're about to consummate the relationship in her mom's beach house, he starts getting chest pains. Mom (Keaton) and her best friend, Zoe (Frances McDormand, who proceeds to disappear from most of the movie), have shown up to embarrass everyone, and they get the old man to the hospital in time, where Doctor Keanu tells him he isn't in good enough shape to travel. This wacky contrivance ensures that ol' Jack ends up staying at Keaton's house, where his bull-in-a-china-shop manner can slowly melt into true love.

And then . . . more stuff happens. The movie comes to a natural end. But wait! It keeps going. Then it ends again . . . wait, no. Hold on, here's the real climax . . . ah, dammit! When does this thing end? Is it over yet? Here's a hint: If the ending appears to be one you wouldn't have predicted, the film hasn't finished.

Nicholson seemed to be on the right track last year in the rightfully acclaimed About Schmidt, so it's a shame to see him slumming for an easy paycheck here. Keaton can't be blamed, really; she's utterly convincing and charming, first as a guarded woman with an acidic wit, then as a mature woman feeling the giddiness of love again for the first time in a decade or two. If only the movie deserved her. Meyers' script may as well be nonexistent -- allowing Keaton and Nicholson to improvise would have worked better than some of the more obviously staged bits, such as a near-endless montage of crying scenes that's supposed to play as the height of hilarity, but in fact makes you fumble for some imagined remote control that might possibly have a mute button.

Still, as a date-night movie for women of 50 or thereabouts, chances are it'll do the trick.

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