And So It Goes
Even the title is boring: And So It Goes. Here’s yet another film – hoping to coax aging boomers off of their couches — that is hellbent on raising the spirits and touching the heart. This particular Pavlovian exercise in predictability panders, poses, and prostitutes some fine former stars in a screenplay devoid of a single moment of authentic humanity. The problem is more than facile symbolism and annoying acting, though writer Mark Andrus, with his maudlin and often brainless screenplays (Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood), has worn out his welcome. Rob Reiner (When Harry Met Sally, Spinal Tap) is a substantial comic director who should know a good script from bad. This kind of drivel has Hollywood privilege written all over it, and the tragedy is that the culture industry has the money and clout for mass advertising and a stranglehold on megaplexes everywhere. There are so many terrific foreign films about late life relationships, and so many marvelous new young filmmakers with sophisticated stories filled with rich characterizations. But audiences won’t hear about those movies or have a chance to see them.
Michael Douglas is Oren Little, a cranky and mean spirited but enormously successful realtor who, having recently lost his wife to cancer, is trying to sell the 7.5 million dollar family home. Currently he lives in a one half of a duplex that he also owns. Boxes are stacked everywhere. I’m not sure why. His neighbor is Leah, played by Diane Keaton, a lonely widow and lounge singer who has a tendency to weep during her performances. Owen has an estranged son, Luke (played by underused but terrific Off-Broadway actor Scott Shepherd), who is a recovering drug addict. He has been sentenced to 9 months in jail for charges unrelated to drugs and of which he is not guilty. Luke’s daughter, Zoe (Sterling Jerins) needs to be taken care of. She gets dropped off with Owen, who will obviously be broken out of his crusty shell and learn to love again, much like the chrysalis in the unlikely iPhone movie little Zoe produces during her stay with grandpa.
I waited, breathlessly, for a moment of believability. Every line is delivered as a character ‘bit,’ with no sense of who anyone really is. There is a black couple living on the top floor who serve no real purpose except that the women is pregnant and so will supply us with a rambling, unnecessary birth scene. There are so many truly great child actors right now, but Jerins supplies no personality, which is shocking considering the character is a key plot point. Keaton is now on the list of actresses to avoid unless she is given some other part to play than that of an emotionally befuddled and attractive older women. The problem is compounded here because she plays a fairly untalented lounge singer who would never survive at an upscale club unless people went to laugh at the horrid toupee perching on the head of her piano player (Rob Reiner – one bright spot). Is she supposed to be mediocre? I gave up wondering. Douglas needed some direction or, maybe some lines that transcend the stilted jabber in your typical Lifetime Network movie. He has three modes – cranky, wise cracky, and redeemed.
And where are these people living, anyway? Rarely have I seen a movie where I had to study the extras walking in the streets to get a sense of what kind of community this is. There is no sense of location at all. More amazing — I lost all sense of what was happening when. Time is relative. When did he last see his son? How far away is the prison? Does the child go to school? Does the child eat anything besides sandwiches? There is no sense of night moving into day, or of days passing. The time of year is non-existent. I waited for the credits. Apparently, this is set in Connecticut.
The soundtrack is peppered with classics designed to pleasurably stimulate aging yuppie memory banks. It doesn’t always pay off. Keaton, purring Bonnie Raitt’s “Something to Talk About,” set my teeth on edge. I hoped until the bitter end for something evocative of the real world. But that isn’t the way And So It Goes goes.