Record label boss Harry Sanborn only dates women who are half his age. But when he suffers a heart attack at the home of his girlfriend’s mother, playwright Erica Barry, he’s surprised to find himself falling for this intelligent, mature woman — even though she’s being courted by Harry’s young doctor.
IT’s probably safe to surmise that the members of the National Board of Review who recently named Diane Keaton as the year’s Best Actress are themselves of ‘a certain age’, as the French might say. Perhaps in their younger days as fledgling critics they were besotted with Annie Hall, because Keaton indulges in some similarly cute mannerisms here.
If Annie had grown up, become a famous playwright and moved to a seaside house in the Hamptons, then she’d be Erica Barry.
Keaton isn’t the only star falling back on familiar moves in Something’s Gotta Give. As recording industry mogul and confirmed bachelor Harry Sanborn, Jack Nicholson is simply Jack Nicholson — or at least the exaggerated, wolfish, philandering Jack-the-lad we’d like to think he is, both on-screen and off.
These are movie star actors playing movie star people, not thespians crafting psychologically credible characters. Likewise, Something’s Gotta Give is a romantic comedy plain and simple, with no hidden agenda other than to entertain as broad a base as possible.
Writer-director Nancy Meyers allowed for similar indulgence in her previous film, What Women Want. Fortunately, though, there’s nothing here that’s quite as egotistically awful as the sight of Mel Gibson dancing to Frank Sinatra in his plush apartment. Meyers lets her stars off the leash, but they add enough charm to their characters’ excesses to win over the audience.
Look beyond their performances, however, and the film’s limitations become obvious. Reeves is rather charismatic as the young doctor who admires Erica for her brain as much as her beauty, but it’ll take a tolerant audience to accept him as a heart specialist without suppressing a giggle.
McDormand and Favreau as, respectively, Erica’s sister and Harry’s right-hand man can only have accepted such underwritten cameo roles for the opportunity to bask in Jack’s sunlight.
As the film settles into its sitcom scenario — they’re all stuck in the one location, with love complications overlapping between the main characters — the story and character developments begin to feel more and more contrived. It also takes too long in the final act to write itself out of its plot entanglements, and ends up looking rather too pleased with itself.
Nicholson grins like the cat who got the cream while Keaton smiles bashfully in soft-focus close-ups. In other words, it’s a concert for fan club members only, less a romantic saga than SAGA for romantics.