Written by Ankit Ojha
What to Expect
And so it goes that I was at the press screening of this movie starring veterans Diane Keaton and Michael Douglas.
And so it goes that the film is helmed by Rob Reiner of When Harry Met Sally fame.
And so it goes that considering I’ve put a spin on the movie’s title thrice as of yet, you’d probably know what the movie’s called anyway.
Now, with stars like Keaton and Douglas, and a director like Reiner to boast of, this could most definitely be a movie you’d be happy to see! In a world filled with alien attacks and superheroes saving the earth (and other galaxies) – this should come as a relief, right? Well, not exactly. The problem here lies in how unassumingly boring and predictable the film looks with it’s first theatrical look itself. But of course, a movie can never be judged by its trailer. That being said, however, with a seemingly linear storyline, there’s still not much to expect from what we’ve seen. And that’s the truth.
What’s it About?
It’s about a realtor who finds out he has a granddaughter he has to take care of while his son’s in jail. He enlists the help of his neighbor and stuff happens until you reach the overly predictable climax. No, seriously. That is the actual plot of the film.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
We’ve all had our fair share of watching two people past their prime rekindle matters of their hearts – and for most part, the staple is fairly endearing. Films like Hope Springs and It’s Complicated have been vocal enough in trying to bring forth such stories, and have succeeded. You’d expect this surprisingly nonchalant film to tread those territories, but it doesn’t. Starting off with Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now (a heart-rending song I’ve come to adore since its appearance in the Richard Curtis film Love Actually), it sets a certain tone for itself – an eighties drama that appeals to a set of audience that looks for nostalgia in filmmaking techniques and writing. The film’s writing however undoes any calm pace the song and the lush moving landscape shot give to the film, and instead opts for severe speed-breaking cliches of the likes of my-wife-died-so-let-me-be-grumpy or my-husband-died-so-I’m-going-to-cry-whenever. Not that these things aren’t a part of real life, but the character arcs of the protagonists – especially Keaton’s weakly written one – aren’t explained too well. On the bright side, Douglas’ character receives some fine writing, and his performance is able to surprisingly complement that. His justification, motives and evolution though are thoroughly predictable even narratively. The humor in quite a few places hits bullseye, and you’re made to think the movie would go places. The next thing you witness immediately after is yet another lazily written scene that probably doesn’t need to be there, and you’re back to square one.
Not that this film is even remotely unpleasant. You can definitely sit through it as an audience member. The terribly lazy writing full of exposition, however, ruins any chances of where the film can go at all. You have a scene where Keaton disappointedly asks Douglas to “have some compassion.” Now why would he? Oh, next thing you know, you have him knocking at her door the same night justifying his actions with his wife’s death by cancer. Normally, people who have turned into the kind of character Douglas is don’t need to justify themselves, so this scene comes across as a gratuitous plot device. And this is just the beginning of a series of absolutely forceful scenes that don’t even need to be there except for killing time.
The film has lush cinematography, an interesting choice of songs – some performed beautifully by Keaton herself – and basic narrative editing, apart from production design that brings back eighties and early nineties drama films to mind. There’s nothing spectacular, however, the camerawork calls for enough eye candy in the wide-angle landscape scenery.
To Perform or Not to Perform
Michael Douglas may not have been in the greatest spate of films recently (remember Beyond a Reasonable Doubt?), and this film unfortunately continues the spate. Unfortunate, because he comes across as a fairly likable performer even for the unlikable character he plays to be. Diane Keaton is a terrible weak link, but this is mainly the fault of the writing. She’s made to be this absolutely kind woman, who ticks off on every stereotype a female character like her can have. Excessive crying, check. Overdose of vulnerability, check. Every other stereotype, check, check, ckeck, and check. she performs her role well, but you can totally see that with some scenes she has no option but to phone it in. Sterling Jerrins is fine, but there’s nothing more to say. Frances Sternhagen as Douglas’ close friend is the only other performer who makes a mark here. She’s confident, and supports Douglas’ repressed emotions quite well. Others are fine.
There are chances some sections of the audience won’t hate it. In fact, if you ended up in the cinema hall playing the very film, you won’t run out in the middle of it. But then again, with such horribly predictable writing and lazy direction and scenes full of nothing but exposition ruining it all – there’s nothing to rejoice either. This film is an overly pale, predictable piece of work that colossally wastes the talent of its leads on a poorly written screenplay that goes nowhere.
Star Rating: 1.5 / 5