Harry Sanborn is an aged music industry exec with a fondness for younger women like Marin, his latest trophy girlfriend. Things get a little awkward when Harry suffers a heart attack at the home of Marin's mother Erica. Left in the care of Erica and his doctor, a love triangle starts to take shape. Written by
Diane Keaton gives the performance of her career in 'Something's Gotta Give,' writer/director Nancy Meyers' smart and savvy take on middle-age romance. Keaton plays Erica Barry, a 50-something playwright living on her own in a swanky beach house in the Hamptons. Although she has achieved enormous success in her career, her personal life leaves much to be desired.
Erica, though brilliant and attractive, has pretty much shut herself off from the dating scene since her divorce a number of years ago. Erica's life runs like a well-oiled machine, with each element both personal and professional - fitted neatly into place, with no room left over for spontaneity or passion. One fateful day, Erica stumbles upon a strange man rummaging through her refrigerator, a 63 year-old professional bachelor named Harry Sanborn who, Erica discovers to her horror, is dating her 30 year-old daughter, Marin (Harry is, actually, a notorious bachelor, having been profiled as such in a number of tony New York magazines). Even though Erica is disgusted by the situation, she is forced to take care of Harry after he suffers a heart attack while staying at her place. Despite their diametrically opposed outlooks on love and romance, Erica and Harry spend quality time together, discover their ultimate compatibility, and eventually fall in love.
Meyers has written a witty, sophisticated screenplay that offers insights into any number of 'battle of the sexes' issues. She has outrageous fun exploring the phenomenon of middle-aged men cavorting with women half their age. Jack Nicholson, known in real life for doing just that, has a great time poking fun at his own public image while, at the same time, providing a richly textured portrait of a man who may not be quite as shallow as his persona would suggest. When he so unexpectedly finds his head turned by a vibrant, attractive and intelligent woman in her 50's, Harry, a middle-aged Lothario who finds he needs Viagra to help him keep pace with his youthful 'conquests,' is forced to re-evaluate what has hitherto been the defining philosophy of his personality and lifestyle. Nicholson is magnificent at showing us the profound confusion his character undergoes as he takes those much belated but faltering steps into adult maturity.
Nicholson is, however, only one half of this extraordinary couple. As the other half, Keaton, having been handed what is clearly the role of a lifetime, has never seemed so natural and self-assured on screen. She makes of the character a capable, no-nonsense woman who has allowed her passions to lie dormant far too long. Though, on the surface, she appears confident and in control of her life, Erica is, underneath it all, a woman wounded by past experience and intimidated by a culture that expects women to be put out to pasture the moment they reach middle age. It is this combination of strength and vulnerability that makes Erica such a complex, recognizable individual and it is the very quality that Keaton captures so exquisitely in her performance. The chemistry generated between Keaton and Nicholson in this film is so glowing and palpable one wonders why no filmmaker ever saw the potential of this dynamic duo until now.
In addition to these two outstanding performers, the film boasts excellent supporting work from Frances McDormand as Erica's pragmatic, clear-headed sister; Amanda Peet as Erica's level-headed daughter; and Keanu Reeves as Harry's handsome young doctor who finds himself smitten by Erica's mature beauty and charm.
'Something's Gotta Give' is that rare romantic comedy that not only acknowledges the romantic inclinations of people over forty, but also recognizes the emotional complexities of their relationships. Because both Erica and Harry have been around the block a few times, they bring a lifetime of baggage to their burgeoning attachment. Thus, unlike in the vast majority of romantic comedies, which are clearly geared to the younger generation, the lovers here have a depth not often encountered when the focus is on two inexperienced neophytes. It takes the experience that comes from living to make a person interesting, after all.
Thanks to the quality of the writing and the performances, 'Something's Gotta Give' takes its place among the great romantic comedy/dramas like 'Two For the Road,' 'Annie Hall,' 'When Harry Met Sally' and 'The American President.' That's mighty august company indeed.
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