A little ditty, about Jack and Diane… two single elders, doin’ the best they can…
Something’s Gotta Give tells several stories at once. It’s the story of Harry Sanborn (Jack Nicholson), an older man trying to stay young by keeping his relationships young. It’s the story of Marin Barry (Amanda Peet), one of the young women Harry has an interest in who has no ability to stabilize her life - something she blames on the divorce of her parents. It’s the story of Erica Barry (Diane Keaton), Marin’s mother who has never let herself recover from her divorce and love another man. All of these characters collide during a weekend in the Hamptons at a house owned by Erica. Marin brings Harry there to take their relationship to the next level, not knowing Erica had also made plans to be at the house that weekend. Matters are further confused when Harry suffers a heart attack, which puts him in a condition unable to travel. With Marin having to return to the city, Erica and Harry are left alone to discover the two aren’t that different after all. Both suffer from an emptiness in their life, and as they get to know each other they begin to realize the extent of that emptiness. Eventually romance blooms between the two sixty-somethings.
Something’s Gotta Give’s greatest strength is its story. Writer/Director Nancy Myers pens an excellent tale with characters that are both strong and sympathetic. The overall story feels like parts of other tales we’ve heard before. The older couple is On Golden Pond while the idea of a rendezvous at times feels like An Affair to Remember. The love/hate relationship between Harry and Erica is reminiscent of You’ve Got Mail while a lot of the other relationship ideas seem borrowed from When Harry Met Sally. The good news is that while the movie feels like it’s borrowing it’s concepts from other movies, the other films are good ones, and the concepts are just as well executed here as they were there.
Both Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton each bring their unique personalities to the screen. It really doesn’t feel like either actor does any specific character work for their parts in this movie, but at the same time it doesn’t feel like they need to. Jack is just Jack, slick, sly, and egotistical. Keaton is her usual strange self, complete with Woody Allen-esque behavior. Each individual actor suits their respective character just the way they are which may be because of natural chemistry or because the movie was written with these specific actors in mind. Nancy Myers is certainly no stranger to writing for Keaton – she also wrote both parts of Father of the Bride, and Baby Boom. Amanda Peet holds her own on the screen against two Hollywood legends, and even Keanu Reeves feels comfortable as Harry’s young doctor who admires playwright Erica’s productions. The cast does an excellent job of building on the strong foundation of Myers’ script, keeping the film romantic and introspective and yet entertaining and humorous.
If the movie has a downside, it’s that a love story between two sixty-somethings isn’t going to interest a wide audience, especially as it turns physical. While it’s great to watch as the two characters talk and share stories of their past, it’s a bit disturbing to watch geriatric lovemaking. It’s the difference between watching your grandma and grandpa kiss, or walking into their bedroom in mid-thrust. Luckily these scenes are kept short and covered up, keeping any nausea to a minimum and allowing the bulk of the relationship to be kept to talking.
The DVD release for Something’s Gotta Give seems a bit sparse on the usual extras, but probably has just the right amount for the audience of this type of love story. Two commentary tracks accompany the film, which seems a bit excessive for this type of film, and one could easily be eliminated. The first commentary track is made up of Writer/Director Nancy Myers and Producer Bruce Brock, and is a bit painful to listen to. Myers continually second guesses filming decisions she made, talks about scenes that were cut rather then what’s on screen, and dotes on Keaton’s acting abilities. Around 45 minutes into the track Keaton joins the duo and adds to the self-depreciation fest by insulting her own acting abilities. This commentary track is one of the worst I’ve ever heard, and never should have been included with the movie. Luckily the second track redeems the DVD with a running commentary by Myers and Nicholson. Although Jack sounds like he might be drinking at times, the track is still quite interesting with Nicholson revealing decisions actors have to make about characters, and some of the character work he and Keaton did. (I still say the characters are pretty much Nicholson and Keaton, despite all talk of character work).
Other extras on the disk include trailers for a range of Sony movies, which strangely includes upcoming and currently in theatre trailers for Spider-Man 2 and Secret Window – strange because they feel a bit off for the target audience of Something’s Gotta Give. Amanda Peet hosts a brief look around the house set for the movie, which shows off some of the behind the scenes crew. Finally one deleted scene is included, which is disappointing in two different ways. Firstly, it’s a pretty good scene of Harry singing karaoke to Erica. Since it’s a song that comes into play several times in the film, it would have been nice to see it. Secondly, it’s only one deleted scene! Myers continually talks about scenes she cut for the final cut of the movie, which originally ran forty-five minutes longer. Some of the scenes she talks about sound really interesting, so the exclusion of these as deleted scenes really was a mistake.
Something’s Gotta Give is a delightful romance movie, but most likely will be categorized as a “Chick Flick”. Hopefully film lovers won’t let that cause them to write off the movie since it really is a fun film with a well-written story. But, because of that categorization, those extra 45 minutes are probably lost for now since I doubt this movie will be treated to a “Special Edition” DVD release.