Town and Country Review

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Stinking rich architect Peter Stoddard, beset by a somewhat late mid-life crisis, begins cheating on his wife with a beautiful cellist (Nastassja Kinski). Meanwhile, his best friend (Shandling) is also doing the dirty on his missus (Hawn). And then things


When a film has been left to sit on the shelf for almost two years, it really doesn’t bode well, and worst fears are comprehensibly realised less than ten minutes into this horribly moribund alleged comedy. Speculation has been rife as to exactly why Town & Country, currently being touted as the biggest movie underachiever of all time, was left in limbo - Beatty’s notorious ego being the most widely-cited culprit, a charge he hotly denies - but you can’t help feeling that stifling it quietly at birth would have been more merciful than the long, slow death it endures on the screen.

It takes a deft hand to make an audience care about the piffling peccadillos of people this rich and this smug. Woody Allen has demonstrated it on occasion, and this is the sort of material that Preston Sturges could have knocked off in an insouciant moment. Sadly, Chelsom’s direction has about as much fizz as week-old 7-Up. Which is surprising - or not, if you subscribe to the control-freak Beatty theory - given the quirky charm and eccentrically light touch of his previous, UK-directed efforts, Hear My Song and Funny Bones.

With a budget reportedly in the region of $80 million, an extraordinary amount given the staid production values, Chelsom and his cast do desultory battle with creaking dialogue, spurious plotting and paper-thin characters.

Where the intention is obviously to recapture the urbane spirit of the well-heeled sex comedy (from The Philadelphia Story to There’s A Girl In My Soup), the actuality is a musty, painfully dated farce, with all concerned lumbering doggedly through the motions. The reliance on clumsy physical gags to court laughs that never come is an indication of just how wide of the sophisticated comedy mark it is.

Garry Shandling, again cast as Beatty’s best pal - as he is in real life - gamely tries to wring some genuine pathos out of the wretched script. But he’s got nothing to work with, and not even his lugubrious brilliance can raise more than the occasional cursory titter. No-one else is even capable of that, although Charlton Heston, in an appropriate cameo as MacDowell’s crusty, gun-obsessed dad, is a fleeting ray of sunshine, although for no more than the obvious ironic reasons.

The waste of talent is simply appalling. Keaton, undoubtedly one of the finest comic actresses in Hollywood, flounders around in search of a motivational straw to cling to until she too gives up the ghost. Jenna Elfman and Hawn are similarly dead-eyed, and the sight of Beatty, now well into his sixties, chasing tail as if this were a sequel to Shampoo, is utterly grotesque.

Material that might have had a decent run on the Whitehall stage in the mid-’50s fails to cut it, in spectacularly dire fashion. A potentially great cast, obviously embarrassed by the whole affair, switch onto autopilot and the result is a shocking dearth