Movies tend to treat love like it's a young person's game. But with so many older actors who are charismatic and more than capable of delivering enthralling performances, latter-day love should be a topic more often explored in contemporary cinema. To its credit, Rob Reiner's latest And So It Goes attempts to do just that. With a cast that's fronted by Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton to boot! And yet the final results are a rom-com that is insulting, unfunny, and far more off-putting than romantic.
Douglas stars as Oren Little, a misanthropic real estate agent who spews hateful comments onto the neighbors of his four-apartment building as he awaits the sale of his massive mansion so he can retire. The only neighbor who has any patience for him is Keaton's Leah, a lounge-singing widow whose grief over her husband's death inspires her to weep openly more often than to finish a song. The two's relationship blossoms when Oren's son drops off the ten-year-old granddaughter he's never met. She needs a home while her dad goes off to jail for a few months. So together, Oren and Leah care for the lonely girl, and eventually see the good in each other.
I'll cut to the chase: this movie is a total mess. The relationship at the center of it is between Douglas and Keaton's characters. Yet the script by Mark Andrus spends an exorbitant amount of time on the subplot about Oren selling his house, despite the fact that it's a deadly dull endeavor. The only jokes therein are blandly racist ones with Oren making crude assumptions about perspective buyers based on tired racial stereotypes. We get it: Oren is a bastard. But--the movie would have us believe--he just needs love to change him.
However, it's impossible to root for Oren after seeing him be unapologetically racist, dismissive of his son's needs, cold to his lonely and scared granddaughter, and repeatedly condescending to Leah, the only person who has patience with him outside of his chain-smoking, cussing business partner (a much appreciated Frances Sternhagen). Oren is a bully. Even his attempts to seduce Leah feel like bullying. His intentions may be good, but his approach is so gruff that it's downright aggravating.
To help the once-struggling, now semi-retired actress with her career, he pushes her to look for a higher-paying nightclub act. To stop her from repeatedly crying on stage, he berates her so she'll work on her between song banter. Astonishingly, he sees this as foreplay. Their first kiss made me cringe, as she clearly wasn't angling for romance. His bullying extends to trying to control their post-coital afterglow. From there, he's a predictable cad. He even condescends by explaining to her how she could be a more attractive woman. How--I ask you--are we supposed to root for their relationship when it's this abusive?
As the film goes on, Oren's rough edges are predictably worn down. But the change in him is not so profound that his ending feels earned. Part of the problem is that the granddaughter who is supposed to play a pivotal role in bringing new life to these grieving grandparents is not a character as much as a plot device. She's cute, but flat, as little Sarah is given too little to do--or perhaps too little direction from Reiner. Instead, she comes off as a mere idea of a child. This deflates that entire plot structure so that And So It Goes just caves in on itself.
It's helped in no way by dialogue that is aggressively exposition-heavy. Characters spew out backstories to such a degree that it's laughable. For instance, when a character is asked how he's discovered so much about the details that have put Oren's son behind bars, he answers, "I Googled him. We're friends on Facebook. We text." Of course any of these would be a feasible answer, but better to list all three in case older audiences don't follow. Then, to really hammer home the point that older people don't understand the internet, he hands Oren a piece of paper that reads: "www.facebook.com/lukelittle". Don't you dare forget to type those three w's!
It should be noted Michael Douglas is as ever exemplary at playing an asshole. Unfortunately, he should have been reined in a bit so as not to make Oren irredeemable. While I can't imagine why Diane Keaton would sign on to this movie, she is lovely in it. Still radiant, she delivers a poignant and at times warmly funny performance. And she sings! Often, and it's charming. Unfortunately so little else in this movie is.
The structure is disjointed. The dialogue is atrocious. The comedy is lazy, including a hammy cameo by Reiner where he wears a purposefully putrid toupee and does a pratfall on a Slip 'N Slide. Initially, seeing Douglas flirt with a woman his own age felt so novel that it was genuinely thrilling. But with Oren always criticizing and Leah always crying, this movie lost all its fun fast. Seniors deserve romance movies that are rich and wonderful. It's a shame that clunky and unfunny wreck that is And So It Goes is what they are getting instead.