• September 15, 2014

Douglas, Keaton can’t rehab this property

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Posted: Friday, July 25, 2014 4:30 am

“And So It Goes” is going for “cute,” as in: “Oh, well, you know. It was cute.” Michael Douglas stars as the grumpy old real estate agent with the broken heart, with Diane Keaton as the lounge singer next door. The title “And So It Goes” belongs on a list with “That’s Life!” “Whatever Works” and “Enough Said,” each film’s moniker evoking that feeling of here-we-go-again and isn’t-love-a-funny-thing.

A movie certainly can overcome its own shruggy handle; “Enough Said” did just that. Independently financed but not anyone’s idea of a brave new indie, “And So It Goes” by director Rob Reiner does not do just that. It does not do much of anything, beyond lulling fans into a glum reverie during which they can recall better films that its Oscar-winning stars made en route to this one.

Speaking of recalls ... if this film were a car, it’d be up for one because the script is defective. Screenwriter Mark Andrus (“As Good As It Gets”) tailors the main character, real estate agent Oren Little, as a snug fit for Douglas. Oren’s a cranky widower near the end of his career, trying to sell his zillion-dollar Fairfield, Conn., mansion to retire comfortably to Vermont and live out his remaining years. He bides his time living in a fourplex, where his neighbors include struggling lounge lizard Leah. She’s played by Keaton; Reiner takes a small role as her lounge pianist.

Oren finds himself taking care of the granddaughter (Sterling Jerins) he never knew he had, while the child’s father (Scott Shepherd) embarks on a nine-month prison sentence. The movie, which is as bland visually as it is flat in dramatic and comic terms, tries to give its anti-heroic meanie of a protagonist somewhere to go, so that when his heart warms up and he realizes the importance of love, it means something. No soap. “And So It Goes” cannot make enough of Oren’s predicaments.

Keaton has such brio as a screen performer she blows past her own likely reservations about the role she’s playing. She’s determined to energize the material, by hook or crook. And she’s in pretty good form. But it’s a director’s medium, and Reiner, who has made plenty of buoyant mainstream entertainments in his career, is utterly lost at the helm of “And So It Goes.” The slapstick is awful; the pathos isn’t much better, though it’s far more plentiful.

By the end of the film, even with Douglas underplaying, I found myself actively rooting for Oren to go broke somehow. Isn’t that awful? A movie shouldn’t turn you against its rooting interest like that.

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