With Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton, Sterling Jerins, Frances Sternhagen, Frankie Valli. Written by Mark Andrus. Directed by Rob Reiner. Rated PG-13 for some sexual references and drug elements. 94 minutes.
There was a time when the new Rob Reiner film was something get excited about: “Stand By Me,” “The Princess Bride,” “When Harry Met Sally…,” “Misery,” “A Few Good Men,” “The American President.” Unfortunately those days are long past and so are the days when he could get top screenwriters like Aaron Sorkin, William Goldman, and the late Nora Ephron to craft the scripts for his films.
Instead he’s stuck with Mark Andrus who had some interesting early credits but whose most recent film was the forgettable Jane Fonda/Lindsay Lohan vehicle “Georgia Rule” from 2007. AND SO IT GOES is being sold as a romantic comedy for the “baby boomer” and older set, but as someone in that demographic, this reviewer has to say, “Don’t be fooled.” The movie is mush, featuring a two-dimensional turn by Diane Keaton and a truly atrocious performance by the usually dependable Michael Douglas. With the exception of a few scenes with Frances Sternhagen as the crusty business associate of Douglas, there’s nothing to see here.
Douglas plays Oren Little, a real estate broker and a widower who is trying to sell his lavish house so he can finally retire. He’s obnoxious and unpleasant, given to racial stereotyping and contempt for the neighbors at his lakefront apartment where he now lives. When they complain, for example, that he hogs more than one parking spot, he blithely replies, “Take it up with management.” Since he owns the place, he really doesn’t care.
Into his life comes Sarah (Sterling Jerins), the granddaughter he didn’t know he had. His junkie son is off for a short prison term and leaves Sarah with a very unwilling Oren. His next door neighbor Leah (Diane Keaton) steps up to help out, and this leads to the utterly unbelievable romance between the two. Her character is a widow and sixty-something aspiring singer who keeps bursting into tears during her set when she starts talking about her late husband. It’s a match made in heaven!
Reiner didn’t always get the respect the director of so many good films might expect, and his work over the last decade or show demonstrates why: he’s only as good as the script. Given sappy material (as in this or “The Bucket List”), he presents it as if it’s great drama, unable to make us believe in the character or the situation. Sternhagen shows what the film needed: some sharp humor to take Oren down a peg or three, instead of letting him run roughshod over everyone until he discovers he’s fallen for both his granddaughter and his neighbor. This might have worked for Charles Dickens in “A Christmas Carol,” but a Scrooge-like character getting a heart is a very tired cliché by now.
The film is so unfocused that Frankie Valli–yes, that Frankie Valli–shows up as a restaurant owner who is cajoled into giving Leah a shot as a singer, and it’s a scene that could have been phoned in by anyone. If you’re going to appeal to an older audience (as Clint Eastwood did in his recent movie about Frankie Valli, “Jersey Boys”) then go all out and have some fun with it.
No doubt there will be some who will praise the film for being something other than the cartoon/monster/superhero fare that takes up so much of the summer movie schedule. Unfortunately it’s not enough. Older people like to go to good movies, not simply movies about people their own age. “And So It Goes”–like its meaningless generic title (lifted from Kurt Vonnegut’s novel “Slaughterhouse Five”)–goes nowhere.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and the author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood, and the Bartender’s Guide. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.