RetroActive #1: Something’s Gotta Give

Welcome to the first edition of a new weekly column I’ll be working on!

It’s hardly a secret that I’m perpetually interested in the way we reevaluate our opinions over time while we grow. People aren’t static and opinions aren’t static. It’s an idea I’m fixated on and there’s no better way to express it than to take the reviews I wrote online between 2004 and 2008, essentially my college years, and post them unaltered with thoughts on both the films and the reviews. I’ll study how the review reflected me then and what I think with the vantage point of time.

So we’re starting off with a rather superb example, my review of Something’s Gotta Give (2003).

When I walked into this film, the following thoughts were on my mind:

-I really liked As Good As It Gets. And About Schmidt. Diane Keaton’s done excellent work in the past as well. Not to mention, Jon Favreau is in this as is Frances McDormand.

-I also really like romantic comedies. As corny as some of them are, I’m always up for a good laugh and I’ve found many recently. (I even picked up the screenplay to Love Actually.)

-This had a great trailer. Hope it lives up to it. I should be in for a good night.

Then it began and I wished desperately to leave. See, what I was expecting was a mature and witty look at May-December romances. What I got was a film which resorts to jokes involving nudity, Viagra, and every bad cliche regarding the topic of older men and younger women.

The film’s plot is rather simple. Nicholson dates Keaton’s daughter, has a heart attack, his doctor (Keanu Reeves) orders him to stay neary, Nicholson and Keaton fall in love, this comes to an end, Keaton falls for Reeves, so on and so forth.

What frustrated me about this film was how defiantly unfunny it was. I never felt any of the dialogue was funny, much less the humor regarding nudity. It just felt like an inspirational video for older women to feel better about themselves and to know that they are deserving of a young doctor.

The film also never chooses a main character. At one Point Nicholson leads, then Keaton, then Nicholson. A film must have focus to tell a coherent story. Without it, the film becomes unbalanced.

In addition, the film wastes its actors. Nicholson is far too restrained here. The film needed the Nicholson of As Good but instead, he gives a performance closer to his work in About Schmidt, which was fine there but wrong here. The aformentioned Favreau and McDormand wind up with maybe forty lines between them. Reeves, on the other hand, is painfully miscast as a part which belongs in the hands of a truly dynamic actor.

There is one bright spot in the midst of this film and that is Diane Keaton. Looking great, she hits the right notes in her performance. I hope the film’s success gets her more work as she deserves it.

I realize this seems harsh and I concede I might not be in the target audience, but if a film like this can’t entertain a longtime fan of the genre, well, there’s nothing harsh about that.

Something’s Gotta Give is essentially the film I reviewed it as in 2004. It’s really a rather dire film that has no appeal outside that target audience of older women. Keaton is fantastic and honestly almost carries the film. Nicholson is completely asleep in it, delivering a far worse performance than my review conveyed. I definitely think I was too harsh on Reeves, something I can blame on post-Matrix 3 bitterness. He’s honestly fine here.

The review itself is honestly probably more or less the one I’d write today. It’s far more informal and brief than I’d write today but it’s a decent review. The line about an inspirational video is a mean quip, definitely not one I’d write today. The big thing I missed out on shredding the film for is the ridiculous ending where Keaton throws Reeves away for Nicholson. Please! If Nancy Meyers had stuck to the story she was telling, it would’ve ended with Keaton completely victorious.

But overall, this is actually far better work than I was afraid it would be. I’m not hyperbolic in the review. I praise things I liked. I made points I’m still with. I’d probably be a bit more forgiving, especially as I’d know better than to walk in thinking it was a good fit for me, but that’s the big change.


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