Two of a kind

Something’s Gotta Give

White is the color of sand, teeth, forehead sheen and clothing for the over-55 age group.

White is the color of sand, teeth, forehead sheen and clothing for the over-55 age group.

Rated 4.0

Featuring two bold and beautiful performances from screen legends at the top of their game, Something’s Gotta Give manages to be one of the year’s sweetest, funniest, most romantic movies. Yes, it’s saddled with a dumb title and a sampling of the lame conventionalities that have marred some of writer-director Nancy Meyers’ past works (the lousy What Women Want, the stupid screenplays for both Father of the Brides). But Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton (in her best role since Annie Hall) are so enjoyable it’s easy to forgive when the film takes a slight turn toward the ridiculous.

As record label owner and 63-year-old philanderer Harry Sanborn, Nicholson delivers yet another fantastic performance, one that perhaps pokes a little fun at his own image. Refusing to date women over 30, the arrogant Sanborn takes up with young Marin Barry (Amanda Peet, getting better and better) who takes him to her mom’s house in the Hamptons for a romantic getaway. When famous playwright and mother Erica (Keaton) shows up with Aunt Zoe (Frances McDormand), they’re all in for what looks like a crowded and uncomfortable weekend.

Things get worse when Harry suffers a mild heart attack and is told he must stay put for a while, forced to take up temporary residence at Erica’s place. This could’ve been the setup for something trite and sophomoric, but what results is a tremendously touching account of two people getting in touch with one another and their inner selves. Erica, divorced and just a little cold, remembers how to fall in love again, and Harry, aging and losing a bit of his edge, seems to be falling in love for the first time. Nicholson and Keaton inject warm reality into the interplay, and they use the humorous situations provided by Meyers’ pen for optimum laughs.

Keaton, who just won the National Board of Review’s Award for Best Actress, is positively luminous in a role tailored to her quirky persona. Erica gives Keaton the opportunity to flaunt her well-established comic timing but also allows her to reveal a warmth and depth that has been absent from her work for some time. Keaton takes big risks in this film, including an outrageous crying scene that will undoubtedly throw her into the running for a Best Actress Oscar in February. It’s a terrific thing to see such a likeable and potentially powerful actress get her due with a great part like this.

Nicholson just keeps finding ways to please, and as playboy Harry, he’s a scream. He makes Harry’s frustration and confusion palpable, and when he squirts a few tears of his own, it gets you in the gut. Nicholson gets a chance to show off his talents for physical acting, his character constantly experiencing post-heart-trauma dizzy spells and anxiety attacks. A scene in which he performs a drugged-up walkabout in a hospital corridor, hospital gown open to reveal his bare ass, is priceless.

As Julian, Harry’s 36-year-old doctor who also falls in love with Erica, Keanu Reeves is charming in a small but important role, a nice diversion from his recent stoic turn as Neo in The Matrix. McDormand, Peet and Jon Favreau (Swingers) flesh out the cast with fun supporting performances.

When the film winds up in Paris for an unlikely conclusion, Keaton and Nicholson manage to overcome the banality of the situation. While the film around them goes slightly off track, they manage to keep their characters grounded and sympathetic. Something’s Gotta Give is good for many smiles, much laughter and a big warm blanket around the heart. Nicholson and Keaton are magical.