How did this happen?

Because I Said So

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

            Diane Keaton takes a bad misstep in “Because I Said So,” but her record promises recovery. She has, after all, made more than 50 movies, directed 10, and produced 9. Of these, many are good, and some are memorable. So she can be forgiven for this one thoroughly mediocre movie.

            How did this happen? Director Michael Lehmann gets much of the blame for not taming Keaton’s exaggerated performance, and writers Karen Leigh Hopkins and Jessie Nelson get the rest for writing an inexcusably unfunny script for this comedy. But unfortunately, it is Keaton herself who drowns the film in excess. Because there are so few good lines here, it seems the actress felt she had to overdo every gesture and expression to create comedy where there is none.

            This is all about Daphne, an overzealous mother of three attractive daughters, one of whom is still unmarried. Mom puts an ad in a personals column and interviews a slew of toxic applicants. Imagine how funny it might have been if each had made just a giveaway slip here or there. The process cries out for subtlety.

            We meet two potential Mr. Rights in the same scene: Johnny (Gabriel Macht), a musician who has all the right instincts and teaches music to children, and Jason (Tom Everett Scott), a polished, successful architect, who says all the right things and is over-obviously a complete jerk. His excess sucks any suspense right out of the movie. Credit Gabriel Macht with a calm performance that makes Johnny a sympathetic guy. In this movie, that’s a victory.

            Daphne is supposed to be a clothes horse, which is defined here by a series of four inch belts in many colors, always cinched breast-high, like the men in the ‘50s who wore their pants up near their armpits. Daphne spends her days shopping with her daughters while talking about sex and the imperative of marriage for Milly. Mandy Moore succeeds in a restrained performance as Milly. Lauren Graham, a good television actress is given little to do and often just stares into space in the absence of lines.

            In one good speech Daphne sums up the adult child problem: “It’s an impossible love; it’s fine to bathe you and dress you and teach you to walk, and then when you’re walking toward a cliff, I’m supposed to just watch you go.” Delivered in a high pitched howl, it loses its punch.

            When Keaton finds a man of her own and simultaneously loses her voice, she becomes normal again for a few minutes before plunging into a ludicrous love scene. So now we have a caricature of an overbearing mother; we have Mr. Arrogant and Mr. Authentic. What we don’t have is a decent script or a director who should have yelled, “Tone it down!” Woody Allen would never have allowed this kind of thing. And so there we sit in this silly movie, wondering whatever happened to the wondrous Annie Hall.

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