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July 24, 2014

Movie review: 'And so it goes ...' without chemistry

Targeted to the AARP crowd with its uncommon late-in-life romance, "And So It Goes" is merely an average effort that wants us to sympathize with cardboard characters.

More mellow than merry, sadly it pales in comparison to Diane Keaton's last smash rom-com "Something's Gotta Give." And it's nowhere near as laugh-out-loud funny as "It's Complicated."

Michael Douglas plays a crotchety old guy who is not only mean but a passive-aggressive racist -- not funny ha-ha in the least. A widowed Realtor, still grieving, he is trying to unload his stately but overpriced home.

He lives solo in a cramped, cluttered apartment. Sweet, emotional widow Leah (Diane Keaton) lives next door, and thinks Oren Little is despicable. His selfish behavior and blunt talk don't score any points with her, but there is the beginning of a little spark.

Well, actually, it is a forced connection that seems highly unlikely, given that she's neurotic and he's obnoxious.

Leah is a timid lounge singer who needs to build confidence, and Oren magnanimously decides he'll manage her career. His former drug addict son (Scott Shepherd) drops off his daughter for estranged dad to care for while he does an unrelated stint in prison.

Reluctant to be a grandfather, let alone a caretaker, Oren foists the little girl on his neighbor, but later warms up to Sarabeth's charms.

Are Leah and Oren meant for each other? Or is this scenario not in the cards?


The main problem is that Keaton and Douglas have little chemistry together. It's a jolt that these screen icons of the '70s and '80s are now playing grandparents, but no one can escape growing old.

Their charms, evident in their copious body of work, help here but they can take us only so far in this poorly conceived piece. Because they're pros, they both manage to toss off some funny lines.

The terrific character actress Frances Sternhagen ("Misery") is in fine form as a veteran realtor, aiming plenty of zingers at the people around her. Broadway star Andy Karl ("Rocky") plays her grandson.

Rob Reiner, who directed, plays a minor accompanist-pianist character, and wears a horrendous toupee. It's supposed to be funny, but sheesh.

Sterling Jerins, who plays granddaughter Sarah, is a cutie-patootie.

What Works

The script by first-timer Mark Andrus is fairly connect-the-dots, but does have a few moments that aging Baby Boomers can relate to, especially about the twilight years and the life baggage that comes with 60-something romance. That's largely due to the appeal of its Oscar-winning stars.

What Doesn't Work

The title alone suggests that not much happens. The film's tone veers sharply from dark to light. Relying on a grumpy and rude lead character is risky because he isn't likable.

It's wishful thinking to believe that the combination of Douglas, Keaton and Reiner would come up with something more memorable. It's a far cry from Reiner's "When Harry Met Sally," and sure could have used something akin to the late Nora Ephron's patented punch.

The film's inconsistencies ultimately sink its modest intentions. And does every retirement-age person have to be technically challenged?

2 stars out of 4

Director: Rob Reiner

Starring: Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton, Frances Sternhagen, Andy Karl, Sterling Jerins

Rated: PG-13 for some sexual references and drug elements

Length: 1:34

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