Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Rob Reiner
Stars: Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton, Sterling Jerins, Annie Parisse, Rob Reiner, Scott Shepherd, Austin Lysy, Michael Terra, Frankie Valli, Maurice Jones, Yaya Da Costa, Andy Karl.
Rob Reiner gave us the classic romcom When Harry Met Sally, and a number of other classic films like This Is Spinal Tap, The Princess Bride and Stand By Me, etc. But lately it seems as though he is in cruise control mode and is merely coasting along on his past reputation, with underwhelming substandard fare like Rumour Has It, etc. Or so it seems after watching his latest film, the formulaic and patchy romcom And So It Goes, which is another of those genial films aimed squarely at the older, grey haired demographic that made films like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel huge box office hits. Not that there’s anything wrong with that as they are a demographic often overlooked by today’s filmmakers.
Michael Douglas plays widowed real estate broker Oren Little, a curmudgeonly and cynical type who has little nice to say about anybody, and whose selfish attitude annoys his neighbours. Oren is in the process of selling the family home so he can retire and move to a picturesque lakeside cabin in Vermont. He is holding out for $8 million for the home, even though the sluggish economy suggests that this is unreasonable. In the meantime, Oren lives in a humble little apartment in a block he owns, ironically called Shangri-La.
Next door is Leah (Diane Keaton), a lonely widow who ekes out a living as a lounge club singer, but who cries during the sad songs. But the pair barely talk, except to exchange acerbic observations. Upstairs lives a policeman and his pregnant wife, and a young couple with their surly son.
The catalyst for a change in Oren’s demeanour comes when his estranged son Luke (Scott Shepherd) is sent to prison on trumped up insider trading charges, and has to leave his young daughter Sarah (Sterling Jerins, from World War Z, etc) in Oren’s care. While Oren struggles to come to terms with the granddaughter he never knew existed and tries to cope with the demands of caring for her, Leah steps into the breach. Slowly, Sarah’s perky presence begins to thaw Oren’s anger and pent up frustrations.
And So It Goes is fairly predictable, and it is obvious from the start where it is headed, but this turns out to be part of the film’s charm. The script from Oscar nominated Mark Andrus (As Good As It Gets, etc) contains a few good one-liners, delivered with assurance by the two Oscar winning veterans. And Keaton gets a few opportunities to warble some jazz tunes along the way.
And So It Goes does have a few good moments, largely due to the prickly chemistry between Douglas and Keaton, another typical odd couple pairing that occasionally pays off, although it lacks the crackle of the pairing of Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt in the superior As Good As It Gets. As the film goes on, Douglas seems to look younger, especially when Oren begins to shed himself of the anger and guilt he feels, and his character undergoes a nice transformation, losing his abrasive edge. Keaton is stuck in a fairly cliched role, reminiscent of her work opposite Nicholson in the aged lovers romcom Something’s Gotta Give, but she has a wonderful presence that always lights up the screen. And young Jerins delivers another of those charming and precocious performances typical of many child stars from Hollywood who temporarily impress and then disappear from the scene altogether.
The supporting cast who flesh out some of Oren’s neighbours and colleagues includes veteran Frances Sternhagen, who gets some of the best lines; Annie Parisse; Reiner himself appears as Artie, Leah’s toupee wearing accompanist; and Frankie Valli has a cameo as a nightclub owner.
Reiner directs the material with a suitably light touch, but the few attempts to explore some darker territory, such as an ill-advised visit to Sarah’s drug addicted mother, misfire and seem tonally at odds with the rest of the film. And So it Goes has copped some negative reviews, but it is a moderately enjoyable romcom aimed at a specific demographic that may appreciate the film with its slightly old fashioned flavour, and its themes.