Personally, I liked it a lot better when this was being referred to as Untitled Nancy Meyers Project. That, at least, had some personality, and didn’t plumb the archives to dredge up a title that was once adhered to Marilyn Monroe’s ill-fated final film project. Unfortunately, I also enjoyed this film more as an idea and as two-and-a-half-minute trailer than I did in its final form. It’s not bad, though it is a movie I wanted to like a lot more than I was able to.
Aimed squarely at the 50-plus audience, Something’s Gotta Give works more than it doesn’t, but it’s a film that wants to have its Nicholson and its Keanu, too — yet it lacks the conviction to go with any scenario that might entail.
The film is funny and well made, and it scores pretty strongly in the laugh department. And it’s nice to see a movie about romance in the older set that isn’t an utter shambles — think Town and Country. That said, Something shares at least one of that film’s problems: The characters are all so very upscale that it’s hard for the rest of us to get too teary-eyed over their various plights. That’s where Something falls down, because while you do laugh, do you ever really care that much about what happens to the characters? I didn’t.
There’s a sneaky air of self-justification at work here when Meyers’ script has Erica (Diane Keaton), a writer, defend her work by espousing the view that people need romance in their lives. I’m no huge fan of grubby realism (if I want that, I’ll go stand in line at the DMV), but I hate to think that romance is shut off to those of us without beach houses in the Hamptons, and who can’t afford to spend our birthdays at a favorite restaurant in Paris, and whose great dilemma isn’t choosing between Keanu Reeves and Jack Nicholson.
I doubt that’s the message Meyers intended, though it lingers slyly around the edge of her film — as does Something‘s too-transparent ending that you know well in advance has to happen, since the movie isn’t about to risk ticking off the 50-plus husbands accompanying their wives to see it. But at least the film is funny and coherent — and there’s no denying that it’s firmly in the hands of two stars who can make it all go down smoothly.
The setup is flawless: Record executive Harry (Jack Nicholson) is off for a weekend with his latest young girlfriend, Marin, at her mother’s supposedly empty beach house. There he hopes to consummate their relationship. He doesn’t, however, reckon on Marin’s mom, Erica, and her sister Zoe (Frances McDormand) showing up — nor is he expecting the mild heart attack that lays him low and finds him as an unwilling and unwanted houseguest while he recuperates.
It’s a great farce setup, even though it’s obviously geared toward an eventual romance — complete with a complication in the guise of Julian (Keanu Reeves), Harry’s doctor, who turns out to be a huge fan of Erica’s plays, and quickly becomes besotted with the writer herself. This much is good; the film’s eventual problems come from the script’s lack of surprise.
Some of the setup works, because it does what we want it to: It fulfills our expectations. But Something goes astray in its later sections, when it loses too much of its comic edge, and becomes too concerned with arriving at a wholly predictable ending. Meyers decks this part of the movie out in as many trappings of glossy romanticism as possible, and that does help. That and the stars — and, remarkably, Reeves, in the best performance I’ve ever seen from him — keep the film moving and watchable, and a pleasant experience. The film’s climax, though, is merely pleasant — and somewhat shy of believable — when Something promised to be much more than that for at least half its length.
Should you see it? Sure. It’s worth it for Keaton and Nicholson — and Reeves and McDormand, if it comes to that. It’s worth it to enjoy Meyers’ skill with running gags. It’s worth it as an adult comedy. But it’s just not the movie it ought to have been — and that, for a while, it seemed like it would turn out to be.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke