A huge raft of talent on both sides of the camera can’t salvage the incredible mess that is Town and Country. If nothing else, the film serves as its own answer as to why it’s been gathering dust for three years. Perhaps they thought it would improve with age. It didn’t. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing good in Town and Country. It’s hard to actually fault the game performances of Beatty and Keaton. There are a couple of good sequences involving co-writer Buck Henry as the lawyer presiding over both of the central couples’ divorces. There are a few flashes of directorial inspiration from Peter Chelsom (and some nice touches — the use of Django Reinhardt-like music and the casting of Chelsom veteran William Hootkins in a small role — that unfortunately serve to remind the viewer of how much better his earlier films were). Some of the broader gags actually work (Shandling has a very funny offscreen pratfall), and the film does boast a nicely skewed view of the world and a sense of humor that can only be called quirky. The bizarrely funny relationship between the gun-toting loon father (Charlton Heston) of Andie McDowell and his equally wigged-out wife is certainly one of the odder things to come along in a while. Plus, the action doesn’t lack for energy on anyone’s part. But in the end, all this energy is a bit like Chico Marx’s description of a musician who “don’t play good so much as he plays loud.” The frantic pace obviously aims at something like French farce. Problem is, the farce in this case isn’t terribly funny — and is bogged down with trying to accommodate too many stars within its very light framework. And as anyone familiar with farce knows, a good farce needs a really strong climactic scene. Town and Country actually starts to build one — at an awards banquet where all the various characters converge — and then just lets everything fizzle. Jenna Elfman (who at least gets to dance with Warren Beatty while he’s dressed in a polar-bear costume) and Andie McDowell (who annexes Beatty as a financee without his knowledge and acts out games with him involving stuffed animals) are particularly ill-served, and almost might not be in the film at all. Other problems with the film stem from the casting of womanizer Beatty as a character who even briefly espouses views on the merits of marital fidelity, and the idea that anyone is apt to be all that wrapped up in the marital problems of the beautiful, rich jet-setters who make up the characters of the film. Most of us have to deal with our problems and daily life at the same time, making it hard to get too worked up about people who drop everything and fly wherever they want on the tiniest emotional whim. (Cuts to characters on jets from one place to another crop up like punctuation marks holding the scenes together.) It feels a little too much like Lifestyles of the Spoiled and Fatuous. On the other hand, the film is certainly well-made from a technical standpoint (William A. Fraker’s cinematography is never less than gorgeous), and it is nice to see a film that suggests there’s romance after 50 — or, in Beatty’s case, 60. It’s just unfortunate that the suggestion is being put forth in this particular movie.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke