As pop stars and chick flicks (sometimes featuring pop stars) top the charts, love has been exploited in movies a million ways to suck Mandy Moore-worshipping teenyboppers into theaters for a Kleenex-fest of cheesy lines, two-dimensional characters and depressingly predictable plots. You know the type—boyfriends tremble in their wake. So it is with great pleasure that I proclaim Something's Gotta Give to be the antithesis of these movies, a truly hilarious romantic comedy marked by a superb script and cast.
Harry Sanborn (Jack Nicholson) is a 63-year-old ladies' man who only dates women under the age of 30. He and his current infatuation, Marin (Amanda Peet), are vacationing at her beach house, when he has a heart attack and subsequently receives orders from doctor Julian Mercer (Keanu Reeves) to rest and stay within reach of the hospital. Marin has to leave town for a few days, and so Harry is left under the care of her mother, famous Broadway playwright Erica Barry (Diane Keaton).
At first, neither can stand the other. Erica sees Harry as a sex-obsessed old coot and Harry sees Erica as an uptight control freak. Gradually they warm up to each other; after Harry accidentally sees Erica naked—mortifying them both in the process—he attempts to make her more comfortable. As they get to know each other, Harry begins to appreciate Erica's strength and intelligence, while she is intrigued by his ability to understand aspects of human nature that elude many people, particularly men. Alright, so I suppose this idea—guy meets girl, they hate each other, they fall for each other—has been used a million times, but when you're watching this movie, everything feels fresh. A key reason for this is the outstanding acting. Three-time Academy Award winner Nicholson is wonderful as the suave playboy who is half annoyed and half bemused by Erica's prim manner, and Keaton demonstrates incredible skill and wit in portraying love and the mess that follows.
Upon Marin's return, she and Harry break up, opening the opportunity for Harry and Erica to get involved. They fall in love swiftly and deeply, though neither of them fully understands what is happening, making it easier for them to play it down and relieve viewers from hours of agonizing love scenes. Their interactions are alternately humorous and touching; however, director Nancy Meyers opts for comedy over passion nine times out of ten.
A prime example of this is the sex scene. Basically every chick flick has a sex scene, and it's almost always the same—sensual and tender, each kiss a passionate affirmation of never-ending love as the people settle somewhere with soft lighting and slowly become silhouettes. Pretty boring. Meyers has the right idea; when Harry and Erica start making out, Erica stops and says that they'd better check Harry's blood pressure; pausing between kisses, she states matter-of-factly that it would be "the responsible thing to do." They scramble frantically with the equipment until they're sure that Harry won't have another heart attack. This has to be one of the least sexy things I've ever seen and is truly a fine moment in American cinema.
Something's Gotta Give is one of the few romantic comedies that is actually funny and has people who can act. Also refreshing is the fact that it does not slaughter love. After all, there's only one scene that borders on gratuitously gushy, which I think we can all admit is pretty good for an American chick flick.
Olivia Bevacqua. More »