For some reason, Troma Studios president Lloyd Kaufman really really hates Nancy Meyers. When I attended his Make Your Own Damn Movie! master class last summer, he mentioned her previous film What Women Want at least ten times as an example of everything that is wrong with Hollywood and moviegoing audiences.
I guess Meyers’ films do qualify as “baby food shite”, mainstream pap, shameless star vehicles about rich white people… Yet in spite of all that, the thing is that these movies WORK. Oh, they won’t change your life or make you go through profound experiences, but they make you laugh a bunch of times and almost manage to steal a few tears from your cynical eyes.
A picture like “Something’s Gotta Give” isn’t about real life; it’s about charismatic stars doing what they do best. I don’t want Jack to be a boring old Schmidt – let him flirt with young girls and be a cocky bastard! And enough with Diane Keaton playing mothers and older sisters, let her be a romantic interest again like when she was Woody’s muse!
So you got your shopworn plot: man meets woman, they hate each other, then they like each other, then they hate each other again, then the man tries to win the woman back, etc. Except here the protagonists are 50+ years old and they meet while the man is dating the woman’s daughter! (“I’m an expert on younger women – I guess because I’ve been dating them for 40 years.”)
He’s the owner of a hip hop label and 10 other companies, 63, never married, and he’s never been with a woman over 30. She’s a successful playwright, divorced after 20 years of marriage, uptight and pretty sure she’s “closed for business”. But after he has a heart attack while canoodling with her daughter (the always perky Amanda Peet) and she somehow ends up having to nurse him, they grow closer and realise they might not be all that incompatible…
“Something’s Gotta Give” is not a great film. Heck, it’s barely a film at all. It reeks of clumsy point-and-shoot direction and it feels more staged than the plays of Diane’s character. The gags are often broad and unfunny (unless you think naked old people are hi-la-rious), a lot of time is wasted with contrived rom-com complications and great character actors like Frances McDormand and Jon Favreau are relegated to little more than extra status while we’re expected to buy Keanu Reeves as a doctor (!).
Basically, there is no room for anything but the leads doing their thing. Jack is macho and smart-ass, all smirk and arched eyebrows, and Diane is irresistibly quirky, smart, sexy, radiant, funny, touching…
This IS baby food, harmless mainstream bourgeois entertainment, but the actors are clearly having a good time and it’s contagious. Chances are you’ll have forgotten it by the time you leave the theater, but while it lasts “Something’s Gotta Give” is a pleasant night at the movies.