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'Something's Gotta Give'

The older Jack gives real charm to 'Something'

Friday, December 12, 2003

By Ron Weiskind, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Jack Nicholson is acting his age again in the romantic comedy "Something's Gotta Give." But this time, he's doing it as Jack.

 
 

'SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE'

RATING: PG-13 for sexual content, brief nudity and strong language.

STARRING: Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Amanda Peet, Keanu Reeves.

DIRECTOR: Nancy Meyers.

   
 

The 66-year-old superstar and notorious Hollywood bad boy shocked us a year ago in "About Schmidt" by playing someone who didn't know Jack or anyone like him. Warren Schmidt was an insurance man from Omaha with a wife who looked like someone's grandmother. He didn't have a clue what to do with himself after retirement.

When we first see Nicholson in "Something's Gotta Give," he's driving a convertible alongside a woman he's dating who is maybe half his age. He's got the Jack grin, the Jack eyebrows and a voice that you could fry eggs on, made of equal parts snake oil and sweet cream butter.

His character, Harry Sanborn, owns one of the largest hip-hop recording labels in the business. Harry never dates anyone over 30, and Marian (Amanda Peet) is no exception. They plan to spend the weekend at her mother's beach house in the Hamptons. They don't expect Mom, the successful playwright Erica Barry (Diane Keaton), to be there.

They certainly don't expect Harry to succumb to every old lecher's nightmare, a heart attack -- at least it comes before they start having sex. The doctor, a man in his mid-30s named Julian (Keanu Reeves), tells him he'll be fine but to take it easy for a while. Stay at Erica's beach house, he suggests, much to her horror and Harry's -- they don't exactly get along. Julian, on the other hand, has a crush on Erica -- May and September can work both ways, it seems.

And so begins "Something's Gotta Give," a glossy if frenetic romantic comedy from writer-director Nancy Meyers, whose previous credits include "What Women Want," the 1998 remake of "The Parent Trap" and, as a writer, "Baby Boom" and "Private Benjamin."

There's an undeniable appeal in the idea of a movie that allows the 57-year-old Keaton the chance to be a romantic lead on an equal footing with Nicholson. Hollywood has always encouraged older men to be sex objects (or, at least, to make love to them) while it begins consigning women to spinsterhood in many cases before they turn 40 (Susan Sarandon is the exception, not the rule).

Of course, the feminist argument might have been stronger if Nicholson's love scene had been with the woman he was married to in "About Schmidt" or even with Erica's scruffy sister, played by Frances McDormand. On the other hand, Keaton proves that you can still be mighty sexy at 57. She even allows herself a nude scene, although you may miss it if you blink. Nicholson lets his bare bottom hang out from a hospital gown, strictly for comic purposes.

Obviously, Erica and Harry start to like each other. And it doesn't stop at start. Their seduction scene is the best thing in the movie, stylish and smart but natural and passionate.

Of course, it can't be that simple. There's Marian to think about, and all of Harry's other young conquests. There's Julian, too. Erica is a full-blown neurotic who flies off the handle first and asks questions later.

It's all very busy, and almost everyone tries just a little too hard, especially Keaton and filmmaker Meyers, who may invest some of herself in the character of the playwright. Then again, I have never seen Reeves give a more natural, less forced performance. He is utterly charming, without a scintilla of affectation.

Meyers lays on the complications until it all threatens to collapse under the load. The ending, set in Paris (in the throes of passion, Harry and Erica had talked about going there), doesn't really hold together, much less tie off all the loose ends. But it does give Meyers the opportunity to turn the tables on Harry, to let him know what it's like to be on the wrong side of love -- or, as he puts it, "look who's the girl."

It also serves as another steppingstone for Nicholson down the changing path of his career -- even if Harry does have to admit he takes Viagra.


Post-Gazette movie editor Ron Weiskind can be reached at rweiskind@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1581.

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