2004-01-02 / Columnists

MovieScope By Robert Snyder ‘Something’s Gotta Give’ – As Good As It Gets

MovieScope By Robert Snyder ‘Something’s Gotta Give’ – As Good As It Gets

MovieScope By Robert Snyder
‘Something’s Gotta Give’ – As Good As It Gets

Whoever thought the girl to rope the elusive Jack Nicholson into romantic commitment would not be a girl at all, but a middle-aged woman?

 That’s the obvious in-joke behind the movie, "Something’s Gotta Give." Nicholson plays his ever- rakish sixtysomething self as hip-hop record producer Harry Sanborn who, at the outset of the film, is preparing to consummate a relationship with nubile young lovely Marin (Amanda Peet) at her mother’s elegant beach-house in the Hamptons. Mom happens to be Erica Barry (Diane Keaton), a playwright whose triumphs in theater far overshadow any recent success at sex. When Erica and sister Zoe (Frances McDormand) arrive unexpectedly at the Hampton’s house, half-clothed Harry is at first mistaken for a burglar. Then, the three ladies decide to let him stay for the weekend ("We’re all adults, aren’t we?") and, over dinner, he is dissected. A professor in women’s studies, Zoe unearths Harry’s exclusive carnal predilection for women under 30. Harry gallantly accepts the criticism, while standing by his Playboy Magazine mentality. Then, while grooving to Marvin Gaye, Harry suffers a heart attack and is rushed to the hospital, where hunkish Dr. Julian Mercer (Keanu Reeves) saves his life, but prescribes prolonged bed rest at Erica’s.

Although the young doctor is smitten by Erica, she finds herself slowly falling for the charms of the hip-hop heart-attack patient, as does he for hers. Is it possible that middle-aged love could persevere in an era when standards  are set by Victoria’s Secret lingerie models?

Writer-director Nancy Meyers thinks so and has a lot of fun proving it.  Although she puts Nicholson though the paces (much to our pleasure), Keaton is the real scene stealer here. Having worked with her in "Baby Boom" and "Father of the Bride I and II," Meyers knows how to push her buttons and does so spectacularly in an hilarious crying-jag scene that is sure to be a classic. Her over-the-top emotionalism lasts for days as she translates it into her new play, which finds its way onto the Broadway stage... much to Harry’s dismay and humiliation.

However, Harry’s heart has suffered more than a medical setback. It’s been badly broken by Erica, which is an unfamiliar state for his organ. Meyers’ writing and direction is clever, quick and tuned in to the pulse of American middle age couples (something unusual for teenage-oriented Hollywood). Her work is also notches above assembly-line, laugh-track TV sitcoms, which makes it worth paying the ticket price.

Also, it’s refreshing to see the chemistry re-igniting between Nicholson and Keaton, who only appeared together on screen once before in 1981’s "Reds."

Great actors in a great movie. Go see it. It’s as good as it gets.

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