El Bicho's Hive

A Collection of Reviews Covering the Worlds of Art and Entertainment alongside other Snobbish Ramblings.

Thursday, January 01, 2004


Written and Directed by Nancy Meyers

Something’s Gotta Give is a charming romantic comedy. After reading the words “romantic comedy,” you now know how the film ends unless you have already seen the trailer. If you’re still not sure whether Jack and Diane will get together, you’re either too young to be on the Internet or you should stop on by the house and I’ll take you to my leader. Klatu Barada Nikto.

Many people enjoy seeing these films about courtship because they are positive, uplifting and a distraction from the real world. It’s a regular crowd pleaser, which is why they keep making and remaking them. They all follow the same pattern with slight variations on the sequence of events. Boy and girl meet. Family members or the couple’s own egos keep them apart. Then something happens by coincidence and {poof} they live happily ever after or at least until the credits roll. Simple, easy, and none of the grueling work needed to maintain a relationship.

Now that you know the basic elements of these stories the specifics of the plot are as follows: Marin, a gorgeous, 30-something, auctioneer, played by Amanda Peet, is heading out to the Hamptons with Harry Sanborn, Jack Nicholson, a highly successful entrepreneur, although we never see him at work. He doesn’t play her grandfather but is instead her date. As things start to get a little steamy, Marin’s mother, Erica, and Aunt Zoe show up and find Harry in his underwear. Respectively, they are played Diane Keaton who gives a wonderful performance and the underutilized Frances McDormand. It’s very uncomfortable and everyone wants to leave, but since it’s a big house, they decide to make the best of it. Seeing Harry with her daughter combined with the foolish things he says about women and relationships during dinner cause Erica to dislike Harry.

Zoe has her one and only big scene at the dinner table where she talks about men & women. She is interesting and funny and it’s too bad that she becomes set dressing after this scene. Note to filmmakers: if you get Frances to be in your movie, write more scenes for her because she is an extremely talented actress who portrays character authentically. More Frances will only improve the movie.

That night as Marin and Harry get amorous Harry suffers a heart attack. This takes place off screen, and as much as I would like to have seen Amanda in heated throes I don’t know that I could have stomached watching Jack kiss her. They take Harry to the hospital where we meet Dr. Julian Mercer, played by Keanu Reeves, who takes care of Harry. Julian is a big fan of Erica’s work having seen all of her plays. He is attracted to Erica and asks her out. Once Harry is feeling better, Julian recommends that he not travel so the only alternative for him is to stay with Erica. They get to know each other during Harry’s recovery, leading to a bit of a love triangle. Marin breaks up with Harry and encourages her mother to go after him.

Erica hasn’t been involved with anyone since her divorce so two suitors is a strange, new experience for her, especially considering the good-looking doctor is about the same age as her daughter. Erica suffers writer’s block as she’s working on her new play; however, she likes some of the things Harry says and uses them for dialogue. Eventually, the entire event of Harry coming into her life will be the basis for her play. Harry and Erica end up having very sweet, romantic moments together that eventually lead to sex. Try as she might to avoid it, Erica develops serious feelings for Harry and he seems to care a great deal for her. He goes back to New York City, leaving their relationship in limbo.

Marin asks her mother to come to NYC so she doesn’t have to go to dinner alone to meet her dad’s fiancée, who is about Marin’s age. Erica rushes to help her daughter, forgetting about a dinner date with Julian. While at dinner, she freaks out when she finds Harry with a young woman at the same restaurant. Harry tries to talk to her about it, but she won’t listen to him. As she takes off in a cab, Harry suffers an apparent heart attack but discovers it is an anxiety attack.

Erica returns home. A few days later Marin goes out to see how Erica is doing and is surprised to find her upset and emotional since her mother has always been calm and levelheaded. Erica tells Marin how wrong she’s been all this time and Marin shouldn’t make the same mistakes regarding affairs of the heart. Giving up on Harry, Erica pursues a relationship with Jules. Something finally gives after a few months and Harry realizes that he wants to be with Erica and tracks her down in Paris. Where else?

It gets wrapped up nice and neat beyond believability, but you know that’s going to happen upon walking in. Although I was watching a romantic comedy and was well aware of all the trappings that go with it, I still had some disappointments in the story. I was surprised that Jules just gave up because he sees that Erica is still in love with Harry. It’s too selfless. What about his feelings? Also why does Erica have to be told this. Wasn’t she aware of this on her own? Also regarding the two of them, we never see or hear about their sex life. We see Erica and Jack together, so why no comparison?

I didn’t buy for a second that Marin would be hot for Harry. He was extremely likable and charming but a romance was too much of a stretch. Nor do I believe that since she is relationship-phobic, she would listen to her mother’s advice so quickly and within six months be married and three months pregnant. It’s such a drastic change. The movie would have been fine without everything being wrapped up nice and neat for Marin.

Lastly, Erica is the greatest female playwright of the past 50 years and she’s stuck for ideas until Harry comes around and provides the entire story and dialogue for her play. I can see stealing lines or ideas, but their entire relationship becomes the play and she doesn’t try to hide any of the facts other than names.

In spite of my plot issues, I thought this worked well as a romantic comedy. This film had many funny and charming moments. The interaction between Jack and Diane are the best scenes in the film. Although there’s not a great deal of depth to their characters, they perform well with what they have and are very good together. It’s too bad that this is the first film since Reds that they got to act together. It was refreshing to see old people being romantic and sexual. Jack has passed the point of being believable with young, good-looking women so I hope this trend of his continues.

If you don’t like the predictability of a romantic comedy, you should take a pass on Something’s Gotta Give because it has everything you don’t like about those films. If you want to see the many shades or love and courtship, a better choice would be Love Actually, the directorial debut of Richard Curtis the writer of Four Weddings and A Funeral, which I enjoyed, and Notting Hill, which I haven’t seen.