'Something's' stars age well

The Associated PressDecember 19, 2003 

So this is what would have happened to Annie Hall.

She would have turned into a divorced mother in her 50s with a celebrated career as a New York playwright, with a trace of the girlish skittishness that was her trademark in the '70s.

As Erica Barry in "Something's Gotta Give," Diane Keaton recalls her most famous film role, but with an added warmth and wisdom that come with maturity.

She's positively radiant opposite Jack Nicholson, playing off his real-life reputation. He's Harry Sanborn, a playboy record mogul who's infamous for only dating women under 30. His latest conquest is Erica's daughter, Marin (Amanda Peet).

Writer-director Nancy Meyers ("Private Benjamin," "What Women Want") gives them snappy, witty things to say to each other, and the banter often seems to spring so organically, it's as if you're eavesdropping on two people who aren't even aware they're flirting with each other.

Even Keanu Reeves has an unexpected, laid-back sex appeal as a thirtysomething doctor who also flirts with Erica -- or maybe it's just that he finally exited the matrix and allowed himself to smile for once.

But then Meyers destroys all that good will by dragging the film out through needless obstacles and endless false endings, until it culminates with a spectacularly feel-good finale that's cheesy even by Hollywood romantic-comedy standards.

As per the formula, Erica and Harry meet in an unusually cute way: Marin has brought him to her mother's Hamptons beach house for the weekend, unaware that her mom and Aunt Zoe (an egregiously underused Frances McDormand) are there, too.

While Harry and Marin are giggling and rolling around in bed to the smooth sounds of Marvin Gaye -- which horrifies Erica and Zoe -- Harry has a Viagra-induced heart attack. The doctor who treats him (Reeves) insists that he stick around for a few days; thus he's stuck at Erica's beach house, where she's also stuck with writer's block.

You could figure out simply by walking past the poster for this movie at a bus stop that Harry and Erica would eventually end up rolling around in bed, too. Harry must realize that what he's needed all along is a mature woman who's his equal -- until that happens, he's practically depicted as pond scum.

Once they do get together, Keaton is nothing short of luminescent, capable of allowing myriad expressions to flash across her face _ sometimes, seemingly all at once. It is, however, sort of archaic for Meyers to suggest that this bright, beautiful character is only capable of feeling like a natural woman when a man makes her feel that way.

And that man is pretty much a buffoon, despite his womanizing ways. Nicholson isn't afraid to look stupid to get the big laugh, even if it entails baring his backside in a hospital gown.

Unfortunately, he ends up in the hospital too many times toward the end. Meyers conjures up repeated heart problems for Harry to keep him and Erica apart before their inevitable reconciliation.

And yes, that's all part of the formula, too. But it's already a talky film, and once it starts pushing the two-hour mark -- to quote the title -- something's gotta ... oh, never mind.

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