Somethings Gotta Give

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


            Yes, it’s a comic master stroke for Nancy Meyers who wrote and directed this movie, and yes, it’s a grand Christmas present to everyone who feels the creep of age; but the real zest of “Something’s Gotta Give” comes from watching the two old pros chew it up in perfect rhythm (excepting some awkward scene transitions).    

            If we think of Diane Keaton most fondly as Annie Hall, remember she has acted in, directed, and produced nearly sixty films.  Jack Nicholson has more than seventy to his credit.  These are two people who clearly love what they do. 

What they do here is blend their comic skills - a wink, a glance, a double take, a chuckle, an appreciative look – they bring all these to this wonderful picnic of a movie.  Whenever the movie sags, one of them grabs the movie by the collar and jerks it awake.  Both Keaton and Nicholson are playing close to the real life selves we’ve all heard about.  She is modest and flaky; he is outrageous.

Does anyone not know the premise?  For all his adult life, unmarried Harry Sanborn (Nicholson) has obeyed his self-inflicted commandment:  Don’t date anyone over thirty.  He has come this weekend to the beach house of his new girl friend’s mother.  That would be Amanda Peet as Marin and Keaton as mother Erica Barry.  Harry has a mild heart attack that leaves him in Erica’s care for a day or two, just the right amount of time for them to astonish themselves by falling in love.  Along the way, Harry’s doctor (a newly enthusiastic Keanu Reeves) becomes besotted with mom too.  Frances McDormand, as Erica’s sister, adds real spice.

Keaton’s Erica is a successful playwright who has designed an enviable lifestyle for her middle-aged self.   Writing plays, walking the beach, music, and family; it is a good life, earned and deserved.  She feels lonely, she says, only when she goes to bed.

When the new relationships she has let in take a turn for the worse, Diane Keaton starts to cry – or better said, to wail – for several weeks.  She does it so cleverly that the audience doesn’t waste a moment on pity, but howls with laughter in appreciation of the pickle she is in.  In a very grown-up bit of behavior, Jack Nicholson seems to understand the older single woman pickle is a national phenomenon, and he gracefully restrains his scene stealing muggery.  He steps aside and opens the door to the laughs for his co-star, and Keaton walks right through, taking the movie with her. 

When someone said of the movie last week, “I just want what Diane Keaton has,” we’re not quite sure whether she meant the single lifestyle or the life with new love.  Either way, with Nicholson and Keaton on board, it’s likely to be a life awash in laughter – with a dash of rage, a bit of betrayal, and a bucket of tears.


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