Friday, July 25, 2014

And So It Goes

Review by Milan Paurich

Anyone who loves Diane Keaton will experience a whiff of nostalgia when she takes the stage in Rob Reiner’s AND SO IT GOES. Keaton doesn’t sing “Seems Like Old Times” or “It Had to Be You,” but the ANNIE HALL flashbacks linger pleasantly throughout the rest of the movie. It’s like an impromptu reunion with a dear old friend you’d lost touch with.

Since Reiner already made his own ANNIE HALL homage with 1989’s WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, that musical reminder of Woody Allen’s seminal ‘70s masterpiece was surely intentional. Of course, everything about
AND SO... feels a tad deliberate and calculated for effect. Still, as predictable and formulaic as much of the film is, it satisfies like the cinematic equivalent of comfort food. (Think breaded veal cutlet with mushroom gravy and a side of lumpy mashed potatoes.)

Once upon a time, Reiner was a director whose winning streak seemed unstoppable. Everything he touched turned to gold. Then his luck—as well as box-office grosses, critical huzzahs and industry clout—petered out. (1994’s woebegone NORTH officially marked the beginning of Reiner’s demise.)

Which hasn’t stopped fans of Reiner’s early hits from hoping that he’d eventually return with another PRINCESS BRIDE or STAND BY ME. If AND SO IT GOES isn’t in the same league as his best work, it’s at least a step in the right direction. Like Reiner’s last bona fide hit (2007’s THE BUCKET LIST, also written by Mark Andrus), smart casting makes all the difference.

Keaton and Michael Douglas (coming off a career-best performance in Steven Soderbergh’s BEHIND THE CANDELABRA) are pretty much everything you could wish for in terms of an opposites-attract odd couple. The fact that they’re playing variations on roles they’ve played countless times before (Annie Hall and Gordon Gekko) is part of the fun. Hard to believe it’s the first time the two have acted together because they—and their “types”—play off each other so beautifully.

Douglas’ Oren Little is a widowed real estate mogul who reluctantly moves into the apartment building he owns (“Little Shangri-La;” get it?) while his McMansion is in the process of being sold. The abrasive Oren is nobody’s idea of a nice guy—or a good neighbor. (For starters, he hogs all the best parking spaces). When his estranged son (Austin Lysy) shows up one day and begs him to watch his 10-year-old daughter (Sterling Jerins) while he does time for a white collar crime, you just know Oren will pass babysitting chores off to someone else.

Oren’s designated babysitter is his new next door neighbor, Leah (Keaton), a lounge singer who performs at an area restaurant. A widow who never had any children of her own, Leah takes to little Sarah like, well, Grammy Hall. Only gradually does Oren warm up to the kid, mostly because he starts seeing her through Leah’s adoring eyes.

Yes, Andrus’ script is riddled with contrivances and sitcom-friendly punch lines (at times, you can almost hear a laugh track). But, being the old pros that they are, Reiner, Keaton and Douglas somehow manage to make it work.

While Reiner’s glory days as a film director may never return,
AND SO IT GOES is his most relaxed and enjoyable effort in years. In a summer dominated by rock ‘em/sock ‘em robots, giant lizards, X-Men and damn, hairy apes, consider it the pause that refreshes. 3 out of 4 stars.

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