Wrap It Up!
Who needs the Matrix when you've got Pottery Barn? Yep, we women have downed our FDA-approved Viagra Kool-Aid and will all graciously accept Something's Gotta Give as Hollywood's edgy and progressive holiday gift. Finally--a movie about what older women want, despite all the odds against it. I mean, we know it's near impossible to get a big film made starring a woman over 35. And we've read that What Women Want writer-director Nancy Meyers (recently divorced) was reduced to smuggling Diane Keaton (way too old, said studio execs) into this romantic comedy by cleverly disguising the whole thing as an old-dog-new-trick flick about Schmidt...er, I mean Jack Nicholson.
Call it Reconstructing Henry. Here's Johnny once again, this time as Henry Sanborn, working the same aging bachelor shtick he has been vamping on since Terms of Endearment. Capitalist impresario Henry is the fabulously flossed owner of a hip-hop record label (cue up funny shots of black men in gold chains), an irrepressible old coot who only dates women in their 20s. When he and his new Christie's auctioneer babe (Amanda Peet) head out to the Hamptons to frolic in her family's beach house, they unexpectedly run into her aunt (Frances McDormand, still looking Laurel Canyon scrumptious) and playwright mother Erica (Keaton). Things get worse when, just as the May-December lovers scamper off to canoodle, ol' Henry has a coronary. All convene at the local hospital where devastating doc Keanu Reeves prescribes some inconvenient beach house R&R for the crusty magnate--and, in a flirty twist, reveals himself to be a big fan of Erica's plays. (Make that a smitten groupie.)
Despite the makings of a bouncy roundelay, the script never seems to fully enjoy being flipped. And when it requires sardonic Jack and high-strung Diane to drop their defenses and fall hard, they simply lower their energy levels. You can almost forgive Nicholson's teeth-gritting when he has to upchuck puff pastries such as "At one point, I even thought...soulmates." For his part, Keanu is the hottest robot in the East Egg ER. Next to Nicholson's eyebrow crookery, his smiling stiffness comes off as naïveté, his eventual seduction of the reluctant older muse offering a play-along sweetness. Too bad their ostensible intellectual connection, as well as the supposed fiery sparring between Erica and Henry, never makes it into the dialogue. Instead, the blaring, anachronistic Woody Allen-esque soundtrack (these are baby boomers--can we at least fast-forward to some Big Chill-era grooves?) gets cranked whenever blahs need masking. In what ends up feeling like a reprieve from wince-inducing misfires, we're bombarded with dinner scenes where the camera circumnavigates a splendid table as our principals laugh, gesticulate, and charm the chinos off one another with barely audible bon mots.
During these gaps it becomes weirdly apparent--despite the best efforts by Keaton, with her still-cute stammers, exasperated aaarrrgghs, and crying jags--that the real stars here are the showroom sofas, granite counters, window treatments, console tables, carved serving bowls, and the hilariously abundant flowers, enough to freeze Martha Stewart in mid-broker buzz. If nobody in this J. Crew-outfitted two-hander seems like she believes its romantic canards for one second, there's a Busby Berkeley cast of threads in that silver-trimmed bedsheet that'll spirit you straight to ABC Carpet & Home heaven. It's through this cozy environment that the real female fantasy emerges: of being so secure that instead of a grizzled, self-satisfied has-been hubby, you might not need monogamy at all. When, in her scenes with Nicholson, Keaton seems oddly awed that her marquee-mounting pal is deigning to bust her out of her turtleneck twinset, Give's women viewers might understandably be dreaming of Jack-less solitude, professional esteem, and unfettered mobility--about moving through life without old dogs, new tricks, or anybody's condescending gifts.
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