Something’s Gotta Give

Writer-director Nancy Meyers got a chemistry set for Christmas: Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton. Aside from fleeting moments in Warren Beatty’s “Reds,” it boggles the mind to learn that Nicholson and Keaton have never shared the screen. They’ve been traveling in the same circles for years, it’s hard to believe that it took this long to bring them together.

Even though “Something’s Gotta Give” runs long, I never got tired of watching Nicholson and Keaton share insults, exchange subtle flirtations, and prove that life only gets better with age. This is Meyers’ third film as a director (The Parent Trap, What Women Want), following a lengthy career as a successful screenwriter (Private Benjamin, Father of the Bride, Baby Boom), and she also gets better with age. Her characters reflect the reality of her life, saying and doing things that provide mature insight as well as laughs.

And while some of the moments in “Something’s Gotta Give” may be played a little broad, Meyers is never disrespectful of her characters or her audience. Meyers always manages to bring a smile to my face, and the characters and situations she has cooked up in “Something’s Gotta Give” are no exception. Meyers never caters to the lowest common denominator, finding humor in everyday events.

There are a handful of moments in “Something’s Gotta Give” that feel forced, but they are minor transgressions in a sparkling script. Meyers has written for Keaton on three previous films (Baby Boom, Father of the Bride 1 & 2) and wrote the role of Erica Barry, fifty-something playwright, especially for her. Meyers perfectly captures what we like most about Keaton, allowing the actress to play to her strengths. I like that Meyers sees women as more than companions and creates strong, successful roles for them.

Keaton’s Erica is successful at everything in her life except romance, but all that changes when beautiful young daughter Marin (Amanda Peet) shows up unexpectedly with new boyfriend Harry Sanborn (Nicholson), a successful record mogul who never dates anyone over thirty. If Harry were fifty it might be considered a mid-life crisis, but at 63 years, it’s a life choice. Believing that Erica’s Hampton estate is vacant, Marin and Harry sneak off for a little quiet time, only to be interrupted by Erica and her sister Zoe (Frances McDormand).

In true romantic comedy fashion, Harry and Erica can’t stand each other, a complication that is put to the test when Harry suffers a heart attack and is forced to recuperate at Erica’s. Meyers swiftly sweeps all of the supporting characters out of the picture, allowing Harry and Erica to fill the frame with their constant states of disbelief, shock, interest, and eventually romance. Keanu Reeves plays the monkey wrench, a young, handsome local doctor who starts to show an interest in Erica just as Harry starts coming around.

While “Something’s Gotta Give” never strays too far from the comfort zone, it does engage and entertain. Some of the characters, especially McDormand’s confrontational Zoe, disappear too soon, while Nicholson and Keaton have never been better. Nicholson is basically playing a version of himself, but no one does it like Jack. His recent forays into comedy (Anger Management) allow Nicholson to channel his patented angst into laughs, and he’s a total delight as a man who slowly wakes up to the fact that love isn’t an act but an emotion.

Keaton excels as Erica, who has given up on love, only to learn that love hasn’t given up on her. It’s a brave performance, filled with emotional ballast and bare honesty. I have always been a Keaton fan because she makes what she does look easy. It doesn’t feel like an act. Even Reeves redeems himself in a light and fluffy performance as the third wheel.

Like “What Women Want,” “Something’s Gotta Give” is an adult fairytale, a morality lesson about what happens when men hold pretend power over women, only to discover that power can buy everything but love. In “What Women Want,” Mel Gibson’s advertising executive believes that reading his superior’s thoughts give him an edge and make him superior. In the quest to maintain his pride he falls in love, and regrets his deception.

We know going into “Something’s Gotta Give” that Harry will end up with Erica because Marin is nothing more than a prize, the prettiest girl that power and money can buy. Harry’s power trips don’t work on Erica because she’s familiar with Harry’s kind, and with knowledge comes power. The fun comes in watching these two powerful people butt heads before reaching an accord.

Jack and Diane Stars give romantic comedy that “Something” extra


Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Keanu Reeves, Frances McDormand, Amanda Peet. Directed by Nancy Meyers. Rated PG-13. 125 Minutes.


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