Something's Gotta Give

Dec 17, 2003 at 12:00 am

Blame jaded audiences. Blame the decline of social standards and public morals. Blame the money men who run Hollywood’s filth factory. Whatever the cause, it’s time we as conscientious Americans came together and demanded a stop to the exploitation of older actors through nudity.

It all started last year, when Oscar-winner Kathy Bates was forced to strip for a hot-tub scene in About Schmidt. Trailers for Calendar Girls, a skin flick featuring several dames of the British stage, suggest an AARP version of Girls Gone Wild! And now 66-year-old Jack Nicholson and 57-year-old Diane Keaton have been driven into baring their flesh for their romantic comedy Something’s Gotta Give.

If you’ve seen the ads for Something’s Gotta Give, you already know about some of the movie’s nudity and most of its gags. Nicholson plays a hip-hop recording label owner, a wealthy rake whose thong song gets interrupted first by Keaton, the mother of his filly-du-jour, then by a heart attack. Keaton’s character is a Hollywood frappé, a famous playwright with a huge Hamptons beach house whose divorce began with her husband and grew to encompass all men. But Nicholson’s character turns on her defroster, just as she catches the young eye and creepily passive face of Nicholson’s doctor, Keanu Reeves.

Something’s Gotta Give was written and directed by Nancy Meyers, whose other contributions to the American film canon include What Women What. A longtime friend of Keaton’s, she tailored this movie as the Jack and Diane show, stealing from their personas and private lives. For example, in the film Nicholson’s penis is “Mr. Midnight,” while in real life friends call it Johnny.

Apparently all the Viagra references inspired Meyers to shoot Something’s Gotta Give in the style of a drug commercial, full of blue skies and people strolling the beach in off-white clothes. It’s scenic enough, but I kept waiting for the voice-over to tell me that dry mouth, nausea and mild diarrhea were normal reactions.

And for no apparent reason, Meyers frames Keaton and Nicholson so they rarely share a shot. Almost every line of dialogue between them gets its own jump cut. This gets old fast.

Yet through the sheer talent of its leads, Something Gotta Give almost takes off. Keaton’s considerable skills haven’t advanced much since we last saw her, but Nicholson has embraced the humility that comes with age. He’s mostly the comedian here, but in a few scenes he uses his jowls and paunch to deflate his inborn cockiness and portray a man who realizes time is not on his side.

Then, about halfway through the film, Keaton starts crying. She cries some more. She cries to music, she types and cries, she sleeps and cries. She wails and keens and blubbers, and this three-minute bawl-a-thon grinds the film to a full stop. As she tries to restart the plot, Meyers even has Nicholson cry a few times, and he puts on a good show, but by that point we want Dr. Keanu to proscribe some Prozac or Zoloft or Tequiza — anything to stop the caterwauling.

What ends up giving way on Something’s Gotta Give is the audiences’ credulity. It’s always jarring when a romantic comedy hammers out a happy ending by destroying one of the romances it spent so much time building up, but that’s what Meyers does here. Nicholson and Keaton should try again; chances are they’ll still look good naked for several years to come.

E-mail Justin Hyde at [email protected].