In the past decade, Diane Keaton has starred in a number of romantic comedies with different leading men and all of these movies have been light-hearted and refreshing. There was Something’s Gotta Give with Jack Nicholson (2003), Mad Money with Ted Danson (2008), Morning Glory with Harrison Ford (2010), The Big Wedding with Robert de Niro (2012), and now, And So It Goes with Michael Douglas (2014) which I saw tonight.
There’s no incredibly complicated plot here; it’s just a simple story about two people who have both lost their spouses to cancer and have their different ways of coping — Keaton (Leah) by reviving a career as a lounge singer where she sometimes can’t make it through sad songs without bursting into tears and Douglas (Oren Little) by being deliberately obnoxious with everyone he encounters. Douglas is trying to sell his $8.6 million home which he decorates with ethnic photos depending on where the potential buyers are from and shoots dogs with a paintball gun. Meanwhile he’s living in Little Shangri-La, a set of ocean-side apartments (somewhere in Connecticut), where he yells at little kids, takes two parking spaces forcing a pregnant lady to park two blocks away, and shows no compassion toward anyone. Everyone has complained to the management about him only to find out that he is actually their landlord: Little Shangri-La.
When Oren’s estranged son Luke shows up to ask him to take care of his almost 10-year-old granddaughter (named Sarah after Oren’s late wife) while he goes to prison for 9 months, Oren doesn’t even ask what he’s going in for. He just says “No. I can’t do it”. When Luke shows up the day before beginning his sentence to drop off his daughter and the stray dog he picked up which Sarah has become attached to (it has a mysterious yellow paint patch on its rump), it’s Leah who steps up and takes her in. Before long, Leah has hit it off with Sarah to the point that Sarah calls her ‘grandmother’ and Oren is happy to let her take up the slack while he tries to track down the girl’s mother. Meanwhile, Oren has heard Leah’s act at the club and wants to be her agent, convinced he can get her a job at double the salary she’s currently getting. Oren finds Sarah’s mother and when they meet her, he finally starts to thaw. It’s a horrible scene: Sarah is terrified, the mother looks beaten up and passes out hugging her daughter. The neighbourhood is cruddy and Oren steps up, says meeting the mother was a birthday present and maybe they’d do it again sometime. He and Leah take Sarah to an amusement park for her birthday where they go on rides, win a huge prize (stuffed animal), and just generally have a great time.
Some of the best humour is provided by Frances Sternhagen who plays the part of the head of the realty office where Oren works. She claims to be his only friend and is rather blunt and somewhat vulgar at times, always ready to lend him sage advice on his love life, something at which he finds he’s a bit inept. Slowly throughout the movie, Oren starts to become a more caring human being, getting a lawyer to ‘spring’ Luke from prison (for a white-collar crime he didn’t commit), delivering a baby for one of the neighbours, getting Leah the gig he’d promised, and finally selling his house. Will he follow through with the plans he and his late wife made to retire to a quiet lake in Vermont or will he return to humanity and become part of the community in Little Shangri-La?
There’s no great message here — just great acting between two talented professionals with lots of laughs and even a few tears! A relaxing escape! * * * *
Directed by Rob Reiner. Now available at Amazon on DVD.