SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE
**** (out of 5)
December 12, 2003
Jack Nicholson as HARRY SANBORN
Diane Keaton as ERICA BARRY
Frances McDormand as ZOE BARRY
Keanu Reeves as JULIAN MERCER
Amanda Peet as MARIN
Directed by: Nancy Myers
BY KEVIN CARR
I accidentally saw this film. For our anniversary, I promised to take my wife to see “Elf.” But that film was sold out, and we ended up seeing “Something’s Gotta Give.” Although I thought I would hate the movie, I must humbly admit it was one of the most pleasant accidents I’ve had since my first child.
When Harry (Jack Nicholson) was younger, he loved dating women in the 20s. Now that he’s in his 60s, he still hasn’t grown out of that phase. His latest lover is Marin (Amanda Peet), who has invited him to her family’s beach house in the Hamptons. While they are settling in (and running around half naked), Marin’s mother Erica (Diane Keaton) shows up with her sister Zoe (Frances McDormand).
After the group decides to share the beach house for the weekend, Harry suffers a heart attack and is given doctor’s orders to stay nearby and at rest. His only option is to hang out with Erica at her beach house, which incites plenty of angst considering Erica’s has been on an anti-man streak ever since her husband left her and Harry hasn’t seen a naked female body over the age of 30.
According to rumor, writer/director Nancy Myers wrote the parts of Erica and Harry with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson in mind. This is a great example of writing for the part. Keaton and Nicholson are perfect for the roles. What’s more, they have excellent chemistry. In fact, “Something’s Gotta Give” wouldn’t work with anyone else.
Part of what makes the actors work so well as the characters is that they can draw on their own personal experiences. After all, with Jack Nicholson playing the field, dating women less than half his age (like the skeletal Lara Flynn Boyle) and Diane Keaton having a tabloid-notable romantic history, the two veteran actors are no more playing themselves – but that’s okay. What results is some genuine hilarity.
Watching Nicholson and Keaton on screen is like peeping in on the lives of folks you know. With our own pretext of their respective affairs, we know that the actors are drawing from their own experiences. Diane Keaton is surely drawing from her angst-ridden relationship with Woody Allen, while Jack Nicholson is drawing from his history of funky-monkey sex with the likes of Anjelica Huston, among others.
The cast is what makes “Something’s Gotta Give” work. Not just Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton, but the supporting cast as well. Amanda Peet does a generous nod to Keaton by underplaying her daughter. Keanu Reeves is surprisingly believable as a doctor (probably one of the most unbelievable acting gigs since Charlie Sheen played a computer genius in “The Arrival”). And Frances McDormand is subtly hysterical as Erica’s feminist sister that can’t resist antagonizing Harry during an uncomfortable dinner.
Sure, “Something’s Gotta Give” is a chick flick. It’s a chick flick in the worst way. But chick flicks can be good on their own merit. And the witty delivery of Jack Nicholson (not to mention the shots of Amanda Peet running around in her underwear) is enough to draw in some fellas.
But it is nice to see a chick flick that is actually directed by a chick. This isn’t one of those films helmed by a “sensitive 90s guy” like Wayne Wang or Rob Reiner. Nancy Myers, who wrote films like “The Parent Trap,” “Private Benjamin” and “Father of the Bride,” has a strong grasp on writing for the woman in mind without leaving the guy in the dust. She puts Nora Ephron to shame, and it’s about time that somebody did that.
Myers’ last directorial nod came in the Mel Gibson comedy “What Women Want,” which also focuses on a philandering male character. The character of Erica is a writer herself who has her ex-husband direct all of her plays, and one can guess that Myers’ ex-husband and director of her films, Charles Shyer, is a source for at least some inspiration. Like “What Women Want,” “Something’s Gotta Give” jumps right into the story and wrestles down politically correct taboos, such as female orgasms and old people’s sex.
There are some excellent subtleties to this film, including the fact that Keaton is specifically not made up like a Hollywood actress. This gutsy move by the actress allows the audience to see her real wrinkles and lines – and this was the only to truly become the character. Considering that most of the film takes place in the beach house, “Something’s Gotta Give” plays more like a theatre performance where the audience can just focus on the two actors.
Sliding into the winter movie scene like a sniper, “Something’s Gotta Give” could very well be one of the best movies of the season. It won’t necessarily be a sleeper hit. (After all, thirty-year-old gamers living in their parents’ basement aren’t going to be flocking to this flick over “The Lord of the Rings.”) But for the standard middle-aged adult, this can be a fun flick.