Monday, August 13, 2012

Giving Just Enough: Something’s Gotta Give Is Not Bad.

The Good: Good acting, Interesting characters, Initially interesting plot
The Bad: Film mortgages characters for safe plot resolution
The Basics: When the playboy Harry Sanborn meets the cultured playwright Erica Barry, an unpredictable friendship is formed that is generally satisfying.

The problem with writing a review for Something’s Gotta Give is that all of the serious detractions to the movie come in the resolution of the film. I'm not one to spoil a movie where it is probable that one does not know where it is going, so my review (and average rating of the movie) will be somewhat less developed than it could be.

While famous bachelor Harry Sanborn is dating his latest young, uncomplicated conquest, he finds himself in the presence of noted playwright Erica Barry. Barry is repulsed by Harry's immediate air of implied chauvinism and prejudiced against his business (despite being an older white guy, Harry owns a hip-hop label). When Harry has a heart attack, he is forced to stay in Erica's house, where he begins to develop a relationship with her, as opposed to her daughter Marin.

As Erica and Harry get to know one another, Erica finds herself charmed. Their friendship opens her up to a relationship with Harry's young doctor, Julian. Julian is a big fan of Erica's plays and he makes it clear from their first meeting that he would love to get to know her. So, Erica's personal and professional lives become complicated by relationships.

And the two real problems with Something’s Gotta Give (outside the ridiculously inappropriate title) are how the plots are resolved and Keanu Reeves. The movie establishes a premise that challenges the conventions of relationships that people in the United States are accustomed to. I like that. While Erica is exploring her options with Julian, the movie is intriguing. When Harry is spending time with Erica relating why he enjoys dating women in their late twenties, he reveals levels of relationship complexity (or lack of complexity) that defy the expectations we have of a man who does not date within his age group.

So, Something’s Gotta Give sets the viewer up for an experience that will challenge our conventions, possibly make us think and otherwise be something different. I like different, especially when it works. And for a time, this movie works. But then . . .

The other problem I have is with Keanu Reeves. Reeves is not a great actor and in this movie he's required to show interest in Diane Keaton's character. We never feel a real spark here. Reeves does not emote in a way that makes the viewer believe he is truly into Erica. As a result, the plot problems in some ways become evident. This, I'm sure, was not intended. That is, the only reason the ends come as no real surprise is because Reeves does not play his part with any on-screen chemistry.

Outside that, the movie works. It's funny, it's heartwarming, it is heartwrenching all in turn. The plot is fairly well put together and the characters are interesting. The acting, outside Reeves, is great. Frances McDormand enters the movie at the outset and leaves far too early. Amanda Peet gives a vivid performance as Marin and from her opening scenes, we believe that she could be with Jack Nicholson's Harry.

Nicholson, for his part, gives a performance on par with his appearance in As Good As It Gets (reviewed here!). He is more articulate as Harry Sanborn than in any role in recent memory of his. His portrayal in Something’s Gotta Give almost redeems his unbearable About Schmidt (reviewed here!). When appropriate, he is articulate, then funny, then genuinely emotional. Seeing him work through his issues is impressive as a character study and Nicholson makes the character work.

The movie turns on Diane Keaton's performance as Erica Barry. First off, it's always a pleasure to see women past what Hollywood considers their prime taking supposed risks like nude scenes and Keaton pulls hers off with panache. Keaton is given the toughest role in the middle of the movie of expressing loss and sorrow while attempting to be productive through it. During that wrenching sequence, which might last a whisper too long, Keaton is utterly convincing. Her performance is powerful and it is impossible not to feel empathy for her character. That empathy is not guaranteed by the audience, Keaton earns it. And that's pretty cool.

Who will enjoy Something's Gotta Give? Anyone who would like a decent romantic comedy. This is fairly archetypal but it opens well and sucks the viewer in quite effectively. It's worth a viewing, even if it's a tough sell for one's permanent collection.

For other works with Diane Keaton, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Morning Glory
The Family Stone
Annie Hall
The Godfather, Part II
The Godfather


For other film reviews, be sure to check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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