- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 11, 2003

Down in the retirement communities of Florida and Arizona, they’ll be wondering at all the fuss over “Something’s Gotta Give,” a menopausal little ditty starring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton as aging lovebirds.

Outside Greater Los Angeles, and probably there too, single men and women in their twilight years are routine dating companions.

It took Hollywood about 20 years, and writer-director Nancy Meyers, to figure that out. Too bad that even with a pair of top-shelf actors who sizzle together, “Give” never quite makes good on its promise.

It is, after all, a grayed-over retread of the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan heart-tuggers, what with the ring-a-linging instant-message crosstalk lifted right out of “You’ve Got Mail.”

Miss Meyers, who directed “What Women Want” and wrote “The Parent Trap,” “Father of the Bride Part II” and “Baby Boom,” is fixated on two interrelated things: children and the sex that produces them.

Here, the children are adults, and the ones having all the sex are what official Washington politely calls “older Americans.” In an interesting twist, Keanu Reeves plays a doctor not yet 40 who falls for Miss Keaton’s pushing-60 character.

Official Washington would also say Hollywood is making “marked progress”: It has acknowledged that sex is not the preserve of Colin Farrell and Paris Hilton and that women in their 50s are still vital.

In “Something’s Gotta Give” — no clue on the title’s connection to the plot — Miss Meyers reconfigures Miss Keaton’s character from the “Bride” movies, plucking her from the ‘burbs, subtracting the loving husband and dropping her into a plush beach house in the Hamptons.

Even in these new surroundings, as playwright divorcee Erica Barry, she’s still very much Diane Keaton in her winning late phase: smart, vivacious and confident, yet charmingly vulnerable — and with a knockout figure that women half her age would envy.

Problematically, Miss Keaton is never convincing as the writer type. She’s flighty, weepy and too smooth around the edges. Her Erica is no Erica Jong, let alone Lillian Hellman.

As a rich hip-hop record executive, Mr. Nicholson is, well, Jack Nicholson: a wisecracking old roue who discards trophy girlfriends like yesterday’s next big gangsta rapper.

When “Give” begins, Mr. Nicholson’s Harry Sanborn is dating Erica’s art-dealer daughter, Marin (Amanda Peet), whom he accompanies to Mom’s Long Island redoubt for a romantic weekend. The romance is spoiled when Erica and sister Zoe (Frances McDormand) turn up unexpectedly from Manhattan.

Over dinner, Harry endures a femi-rant from Zoe the women’s studies wonk and later, while fooling around with Marin upstairs, suffers a mild heart attack.

Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” plays while Erica performs mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on fallen Harry, which gives you an idea of the movie’s many middling gags, which the Nicholson-Keaton duo manage to deliver with surprising payoff.

Barred from travel by dreamy Dr. Julian Mercer (Mr. Reeves, having left “The Matrix” to rejoin the human race), Harry must recuperate somewhere near the hospital.

Reluctantly, Erica agrees to take in Harry, who despite dizzy spells and shortness of breath, can think of nothing but sex, sex, sex. As he convalesces, Harry finds himself thinking the unthinkable: that he’s interested in a woman roughly his own age.

Suddenly, after years of thinking she was “closed for business,” Erica has not one but two suitors: the old cad who accidentally spied her naked and Julian, the cad’s doctor, who admires her brilliance and doesn’t think twice about her advanced age.

“Give” tailspins for a good half-hour before it resolves — way behind schedule but firmly on formula. Miss Meyers denies us the crisp third act that romantic comedies demand, sending Harry on a foot-dragging six-month holiday and needlessly delving into the Broadway play Erica had been working on throughout the movie.

About 90 minutes into “Give” will come a collective fidget: Get on with it, already. For those 90 minutes, at least, “Something’s Gotta Give” gives refreshing comedy — at least for those who don’t live in places such as Winter Park or Scottsdale, where it’s already old news.

**

TITLE: “Something’s Gotta Give”

RATING: PG-13 (Sexual content, brief comic nudity, occasional profanity)

CREDITS: Written and directed by Nancy Meyers. Produced by Bruce A. Block and Miss Meyers. Cinematography by Michael Ballhaus. Music supervised by Bonnie Greenberg.

RUNNING TIME: 123 minutes.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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