Ed Driscoll

I'M WATCHING SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE

I’M WATCHING SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE right now, and really feeling alienated by it. I’m not entirely sure why. Nicholson and Keaton have great chemistry together, and certainly make a handsome couple. But there’s something really offputting about the film. I think it’s the notion of watching 50 to 60-somethings act like 22 year olds. On the other hand, having read Hollywood, Interrupted this past weekend, it’s pretty obvious that lots of 50 to 60 somethings act like 22 year olds there.

Comedies are either typically very broad farces, or they’re about real people in wacky circumstances. Woody Allen’s best films (Annie Hall, Manhattan, Play It Again Sam, (all of which starred Keaton, of course)) felt like they were about believable people. Neither of these characters felt much like real middle age people to me.

And then there’s the usual Hollywood anti-smoking stuff–and the French music (and ultimately, a trip to Paris itself), in a film that was probably being shot while we fighting the Iraqs and being screwed by their French allies. And Keanu Reeves as a doctor? “Whoa–stat!”

James Bowman was also turned off by the film, but for rather different reasons: he finds it disturbing watching wrinkled people make love. I don’t mind that at all–I’d actually like to see a film about mature grown-ups having adult relationships.

But mature, adult, and grown-up are sadly what’s missing from this film. And from most films these days.

UPDATE: OK, film’s over. My wife and I talked about it, and came to the conclusion that it’s not the PC of the film, it’s the crappy writing. We found plot holes you cold drive Nicholson’s Mercedes roadster through, and couldn’t remember one funny line after the film was over. Whereas the Woody films I listed above all have great catch phrases, snappy dialogue, and (other than Bogie appearing in Woody’s bedroom in Play It Again Sam) reasonably believable plots and characters.

How do producers get a budget big enough to afford Nicholson and Keaton, and not have a decent script? I suppose that perhaps the filmmakers and studios (Yes, that’s plural–Columbia and Warner Brothers both backed this film) believed that once the cast is assembled everything’s in the bag. (And the film is pretty well cast, right down to the supporting players: while I don’t buy Keanu as a doctor, this is the most human I think I’ve ever seen him–and while I’m sure he was reasonably well paid, it takes guts for any headliner to accept a supporting role). Something I’ve written about several times here–since the mid-90s, Hollywood films have repeatedly felt to me like they’ve been gone into production with a script that should have been rewritten once or twice.

This one could have used a lot of polishing before being greenlighted.

UPDATE: One of the stranger aspects of Something’s Gotta Give are the unbelievably airbrushed photos in its marketing campaign (click on the IMDB link above to see the DVD cover). The whole point of the film is that Keaton looks like a typical 55 year old, wrinkles, jowls, and all (nicely preserved body though, in the ultra-quick flash cuts of her). But the massively Photoshopped DVD box makes her–and Nicholson–each look about 30!