Something's Gotta Give

Bomb Rating: 

This movie should have ended at the point where playwright Erica Barry has finally finished crying over the end of her one-week fling with Harry Langer (Jack Nicholson) and regathered her strength. Her sister, Zoe (Frances McDormand), meets Julian (Keanu Reeves), a local doctor, and brings him home to Erica to rekindle their romance. They sit around the table laughing, hope in the air. This goddamn thing should have stopped at that moment.

Instead of ending right there, director Nancy Meyers drags this film out for another hour out of a sense of obligation to the lowest common denominator. Instead of allowing the audience to appreciate a strong character regaining her balance and strength, Meyers casts us into the swirling toilet of screenwriting hell as we're flushed down the shit-pipe that leads to the inevitable reunion between Harry and Erica in Paris -- a moment that's so heavily foreshadowed it felt like Meyers had reached in my pants and ripped a testicle out of my nut sack with a pair of eyebrow tweezers. I might have actually been able to stand this (the denouement, not the removal of my testicle) if Meyers had simply flashed "six months later" on the screen and taken only ten minutes of my time. Instead, she drags the audience by its fingernails through every tortured machination of Harry's self-realization. Maybe his life would be fuller finally dating somebody his own age. Maybe there is such thing as true love. Maybe legislation ought to be passed against melodrama. The whole episode is like watching a puppy choke to death in slow motion.

Harry is a guy who only dates younger women. At the beginning of the film he's dating Marin Barry (Amanda Peet). They run off to Marin's mother's beach house where they plan to consummate their relationship. Just before the deed (with Mom and Zoe downstairs) Harry has a heart attack. This forces him to stay put in Erica's abode until he's well. Harry falls for Erica. Julian (his doctor) falls for Erica. Things get complicated and Harry starts to rethink the meaning of his life.

I started to rethink the meaning of my ass (it fell asleep). Meyers wants it both ways: She has two big stars and she wants the film to be about both of them. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. It's about both of them while they're together, then it becomes mostly about Nicholson and, frankly, his catharsis isn't very interesting or surprising. Meanwhile, Erica writes a play about her experience with Harry and we're witness to way too much of it. Meyers thinks the play is her character's revenge moment. To me, it was just ten more minutes of unnecessary crap.

This is a prime example of what happens when a director gets way too much power and then completely dismisses the importance of an editor. The movie is like eating spoiled meat: It feels normal going down until you realize, too late, that it's coming back up.

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