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Keaton Sings! Douglas Finds Love! And So it Goes...

Keaton Sings! Douglas Finds Love! <i>And So it Goes</i>...

DVD Release Date: November 18, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: July 25, 2014
Rating: PG-13 for some sexual references and drug elements
Genre: Comedy
Run Time: 94 min.
Director: Rob Reiner
Cast: Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton, Rob Reiner, Sterling Jerins, Scott Shepherd, Annie Parisse, Frances Sternhagen

It's been so long since Rob Reiner made a good movie that it’s hard to believe he once directed the great run of This Is Spinal Tap (1984) through When Harry Met Sally (1989). That’s a stretch of five films (also including Stand by Me and The Princess Bride) to rival, or even top, the best filmmaking streaks from great directors such as Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Altman and Alfred Hitchcock. That Reiner’s streak consisted of comedies—a difficult genre to get right once, much less consistently across several films—makes his streak all the more remarkable.

Trouble with consistency has characterized Reiner's output since his hot streak came to an end. Reiner's magic comedic touch failed him with North (1994), and after The American President (1995), audiences began rejecting the filmmaker's attempts at more serious material (Ghosts of Mississippi, 1996) and dramadies (The Story of Us (1999) and Alex and Emma (2003)). Even when Reiner scored another commercial hit with The Bucket List in 2007, he didn't win back the critical favor he'd enjoyed years earlier.

And So It Goes, the latest from Reiner, is unlikely to change that. Written by Mark Andrus (As Good as It Gets), And So It Goes begins with several forced, tasteless jokes about race and gender before settling into a familiar but not unpleasant story. Often flaccid in terms of laughs, And So It Goes benefits from the performances of Michael Douglas and, especially, Diane Keaton, who keep the film from being the unendingly painful experience it threatens to be early on.

Oren (Douglas, Last Vegas) is a real-estate agent trying to unload an overpriced property—his own home. He’s confident the right customer will come along, but he’s not above such tactics as trying to hook Asian buyers with pictures of Asian families in the picture frames placed around the house before each walkthrough.

A widower, Oren also is landlord to a group house that former actor and now lounge singer Leah (Keaton, The Big Wedding) calls home, as does a mom with two precocious kids and an African American couple expecting their first child. All of these characters are crudely sketched bit players doing their best with the painfully obvious dialogue given their characters by Andrus.

The same goes for Oren early in the film, as he verbally jousts with complaining tenants, has it out with a defecating dog and refuses to make the most minor accommodation for a pregnant woman who rents from him. Keaton’s Leah is only slightly better written, but she’s much more sympathetic. Her repeated character trait? Breaking down every time she performs songs that remind her of her late husband. Her audiences don’t’ seem to mind. They pack the house for performance after performance. (Director Reiner also acts in the film, in the role of Leah’s pianist.)

Oren, taking in Leah’s show one night, sees her potential and offers to be her manager, but just as Oren starts to get more involved in Leah’s life, he’s visited by his estranged son (Scott Shepherd). A recovered junkie on his way to prison, the son has no one to watch his daughter (Sterling Jerins), so he asks Oren to care for her. Oren reluctantly accepts, believing he can locate the girl’s mom and leave his granddaughter with her.

And So It Goes has all the makings of yet another story in which a cute kid softens the heart of a grownup who’s forgotten how to be kind, and that element is not entirely absent from the film. But it’s a point in the film’s favor that And So It Goes doesn't go whole hog in that direction. Although the child is instrumental in Oren and Leah’s budding romance, she’s not the sole focus of that relationship, and while the romantic-comedy elements of the story are not particularly fresh—the older ages of Oren and Leah don’t make for a relationship drama much different from a story of 30-somethings—they’re preferable to a story that could have squarely focused on Oren and his granddaughter.

Keaton’s character, and her surprisingly pleasing performances of several pop standards, separate And So It Goes from other rom-coms, if only in those moments where she sings. It’s not much, but it’s something, and given the flat, lazy comedy of the character-establishing scenes, we’ll take it.

And So It Goes shows that Reiner can still draw appealing performances from aging actors in subpar stories, the way he did with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman in The Bucket List. But like that film, And So It Goes is flat and uninspired far too often. It’s beneath the talents of its actors and director, and it leaves us wondering why artists of their caliber can’t find stronger material to better show off their established skills.

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):

  • Language/Profanity: Racial/ethnic jokes; Lord’s name taken in vain; crude anatomical references; “s-itbag”; “a-s”; “crotch”; crude reference to oral sex
  • Drinking/Smoking: Several scenes of drinking; smoking; Oren’s son is a recovering drug user who is said to have come to his mother’s funeral stoned; Oren’s daughter-in-law appears to be a junkie
  • Sex/Nudity: Oren says he tore his ACL the last time he had sex; dogs shown having sex, and a girl sees it and comments, “Just like you and daddy”; kissing; Leah says she’ll have sex but will leave her bra on; Leah says she has never been able to engage in casual sex
  • Violence/Crime: A dog is shot with a paint gun; friends of Oren’s son admit they used to break into residences and steal things
  • Religion/Morals/MarriageOren says he prayed for his wife when she was ill; Leah says the Native Americans believe butterflies carry wishes to the great spirit in heaven; a character says, sarcastically, “You’re going to make someone a great wife”; Oren receives information about his daughter-in-law illegally; Leah tells Oren she once had a miscarriage

Publication date: July 25, 2014