By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2 (Out of 4 Stars)
I walked into And So it Goes thinking, “If this is As Good As It Gets, then Something’s Gotta Give!” While I was partially joking and having fun with the titles from similarly themed films, my joke really wasn’t too far from my true feelings on the matter. Considering that screenwriter Mark Andrus scribed both And So It Goes and As Good As It Gets, it came as no surprise that the two films have striking similarities in plot and characters. The main difference, though, is that As Good As It Gets, which was co-written and directed by James L. Brooks, got it oh so right the first time. This latest attempt at a heart-warming, redemption story just feels so redundant, cookie cutter, and has no unique style of its own. In addition, director Rob Reiner seems to have studied the work of James L. Brooks and tries to emulate here as well. The result is a forgettable and benign piece that would’ve made an adequate entry for the ABC Family channel, but not one deserving of theater ticket money.
Michael Douglas stars as Oren Little, a successful realtor on the verge of retirement with one last massive property to sell before he can conclude his career. Oren may know how to sell homes and properties, but he still has much to learn about tact and social skills. His self-centered and cantankerous personality has earned him a bad reputation and the ire of his neighbors in his apartment building. Oren’s estranged son Luke (Scott Shepherd) shows up one day and asks him to take care of his daughter Sarah (Sterling Jerins) while doing a stint in prison. Oren at first refuses, but eventually warms up to the idea when his next-door neighbor Leah (Diane Keaton) intervenes. As they take care of Sarah, Leah and Oren become closer and romantically involved. The new love from his granddaughter and neighbor is just what Oren is missing from his bitter and sad lonely life.
Andrus’ plot and lead character in this movie feel so unabashedly similar to those of his deservingly acclaimed story in As Good As it Gets that it was so ridiculously easy to see where the film was headed. An angry and troubled man needs to rediscover love, friendship and family to make himself a better man. The producers of the film could have easily cast Jack Nicholson in this same lead role, but perhaps they didn’t want to draw too much attention to the similarities with AGAIG. That is pure speculation on my part. My point is that this film has nothing striking or original to offer its audiences. That is not to say that the movie doesn’t have its enjoyable and entertaining moments, but the whole journey is obvious and transparent.
The entire cast performs well, but with no real standout turns. Douglas and Keaton have a credible chemistry; however, because I knew they would connect romantically, I’m not quite sure that chemistry really added to the movie. The entire story with all of its scenarios feels so contrived and manufactured that nothing feels natural and real. The product feels like the result of Hollywood mass production with little heart and soul to it all. Perhaps I am a bit too generous giving this movie two stars, but I did rather, to a certain degree, enjoy the performances of Douglas and Keaton. Douglas does a great angry senior citizen with flair and panache and Keaton does a sweet, lovable, but bewitching lounge singer superbly. I enjoyed her enticing performances of pop standards in her musical numbers.
The performances of the leads provide the only soul that this film has to offer. Had the filmmakers given their talented actors stronger, less obvious material with which to work then I’d probably be giving this movie a rave review and a strong recommendation to catch it in the theater. And So It Goes is as good as it gets, but no one has to give it their money.