Film Review: And So It Goes

As generic as its title, this comedy squarely aimed at "mature" audiences may find itself roundly rejected by seniors, if they have any taste.

A clash of personalities occurs when Oren Little (Michael Douglas), an unrepentantly obnoxious and misanthropic widowed realtor, collides with Leah (Diane Keaton), an aspiring cabaret singer and widow. She lives in an idyllic, summery Connecticut apartment owned by Oren and gets involved in his life when a granddaughter (Sterling Jerins) he never knew existed comes to live with him. She is the spawn of his big disappointment of a son (Austin Lysy), who has gone to jail but not before knocking up a junkie unfit to care for her little girl. Guess who gets humanized, while teaching Leah how to be a better performer and, incidentally, falling in love with her?

The mountain of clichés assembled in And So It Goes by director Rob Reiner and his shameless screenwriter Mark Andrus (As Good as It Gets) is pretty staggering, starting with that widower-widow premise. There's the adorable little lost waif meant to sneak into our hearts; a "funny" dog, given to continuously pooping on Oren's lawn, and a straight-shooting little old lady (Frances Sternhagen, in good salty form) who is Oren’s only friend. Most offensive is the paternalistic trope of the ditsy, directionless female—Leah cannot even finish a song without going into a crying jag over her dead hubby—being schooled in life's reality by the wiser, if none too patient, male. Oren's big transformation from a-hole to good guy is triggered by a quite awful scene wherein one of his tenants—a black woman—suddenly gives birth, forcing him to serve as hesitant midwife. So now we have not only women but minorities indebted to this straight old white guy.

Although the film has been quaintly art-directed to death with that apartment complex a tchotchke paradise, Reed Morano's cinematography has an off-putting dark, muddy look at visual odds with this oldster rom-com's would-be bright m.o. Its major interest is purveyed by Douglas, who, especially after playing Liberace, now seems to have a magisterially relaxed onscreen authority. He's very funny as the initially nasty Oren (a lighter version of his Falling Down character), emitting an unending stream of TMI and snark, whether it be a withering observation about a little boy's penis or telling a Lone Star State native, "I have a list of about 40 states I try to avoid. Texas is number seven." There isn't much he can do with his character's cornball humanization, but at least he doesn't embarrass himself, or us in the audience. Undeniably present, however, is an element of built-in pathos, as Oren's son is a junkie who goes to prison, mirroring certain aspects of Douglas' life.

Keaton has carved out a very rare niche in the field of geriatric romantic comedy with this film, Because I Said So, Something's Gotta Give and Town & Country. The problem is that she is not distinctive enough in any of them, always the same daffy, older Annie Hall. (One has to stretch to remember that she used to have an impressive range as an actress in her more indie-driven days.) Here she shares that iconic character's love of singing and offers some dulcet tones on ancient standards, but her singing feels like a throwaway, and has nothing like the effectiveness it had in Annie Hall or Radio Days. Also, the fact that Oren arranges for this complete unknown to score a $1,500 weekly contract in a nightclub run by Frankie Valli (in a cameo role) is not only Hollywood-fakery wish fulfillment at its worst, but also an insult to all the hard-working real-life cabaret singers out there who could only dream of such an improbable chance. Reiner himself, in a toupee, plays her accompanist and is haplessly funny, even a little touching.

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