D: Rob Reiner / 94m
Cast: Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton, Sterling Jerins, Frances Sternhagen, Annie Parisse, Austin Lysy, Scott Shepherd, Yaya Alafia, Andy Karl, Rob Reiner, Frankie Valli
Since the death of his wife, realtor Oren Little (Douglas) has become self-absorbed and somewhat of a misanthrope. He’s trying to sell his house – for $8.6m and not a penny less – while living at a waterfront four-plex property he owns. His neighbour, Leah (Keaton) is also widowed, and is trying to make a go of being a lounge singer; she continually tries to be friendly to Oren but he always rebuffs her. Only his fellow realtor, Claire (Sternhagen), is allowed to challenge him, and only because of their long working association.
Oren’s life is turned upside down by the reappearance of his estranged son, Luke (Shepherd). Luke is due to go to prison and wants Oren to look after his nine year old daughter, Sarah (Jerins). Oren reluctantly agrees but palms his granddaughter off on Leah. Leah and Sarah quickly establish a close bond, but Oren is less enamoured, his continuing efforts to sell his home in order to fund his retirement taking up most of his time. His feelings begin to change one evening when Leah has a gig and Oren has to look after Sarah himself. He finds himself getting along with her, and when Leah comes home he feels a twinge of reluctance about Leah taking her back.
With Sarah acting as a common denominator, Oren and Leah begin to spend more time together, and Oren takes an interest in Leah’s singing career. He becomes her manager and gets her a booking at an up-market venue. At the same time they act as grandparents for Sarah and when her tenth birthday comes around, they both take her out for the day. Their relationship becomes closer and closer, and even though it has its ups and downs, they both realise how important they’ve become to each other. And then Oren finds he has a buyer for his home…
It’s incredible to think that thirty years ago, Rob Reiner made the seminal This Is Spinal Tap (1984), the first in a run of seven movies* that brought him both critical and commercial success. Back then, Reiner could do no wrong, but with the release of North in 1994, his career began to seem less sure-footed and more haphazard. And over the last twenty years, his reputation has increasingly foundered, to the point where movies such as The Story of Us (1999), Alex & Emma (2003) and Rumor Has It… (2005) have slowly but surely eroded his reputation. It would be wonderful to report that And So It Goes is a welcome return to form, but unfortunately, this is Reiner’s worst movie yet.
While the script by Mark Andrus is tired, predictable, corny and nowhere near as funny as it thinks it is (or wants to be), Reiner’s direction is the very definition of uninspired. Simply put, the movie is a lifeless, hapless mess chock full of tedious scenes, cumbersome plot developments, awkward dialogue, poorly drawn and motivated characters, and a central relationship that could only exist in the most perfunctory of romantic comedies. Oren’s granddaughter is unsurprisingly cute but not even manipulative enough to make much of an impact (the script could have had Oren looking after his son’s dog and it would have had the same resonance). Not content with making things as easy as possible for Oren and Leah and Sarah to become their own family unit, the one potential moment of real drama is over in two minutes flat: Sarah’s first meeting with her mother, a terrible instance of misguided gravitas that shows just how much Reiner’s ability behind the camera has waned. If ever a scene could be described as “just sitting there”, that’s the one.
It’s actually hard to describe just how bland and disappointing the movie truly is. With all the talent involved, both in front of and behind the camera, And So It Goes should have been a winner, but there’s a lethargy about it that thwarts any enjoyment the viewer might be expecting to experience. Scenes follow each other without any sense that they have any relation to each other, and there’s a complete lack of credibility in the relationships that make the movie almost unendurable. Oren is another in a (too) long line of cinematic curmudgeons who all have a hidden, kindly nature, and Leah is the earth mother who responds to children with consummate ease despite never having had any of her own. Everyone else is there for Oren to treat appallingly until he proves he’s just a misunderstood, unhappy guy with a real heart of gold – how else do you explain his being allowed to help one of his neighbour’s give birth without her being embarrassed/distressed/anything but insistent?
As Oren, Douglas vacillates between confused and embarrassed, as if even he can’t believe how he wound up in this mishmash of clichés, while Keaton reprises her role in Something’s Gotta Give (2003) to much lesser effect. Sternhagen swaps barbs with Douglas but looks bored throughout, Jerins fails to avoid from almost disappearing when she’s on screen, but the worst turn of all is from the director himself: as Artie, Leah’s badly-wigged pianist, he gives a cringeworthy performance that culminates in one of the worst pratfalls in cinema history. That one moment seems to sum up everything that’s wrong with the movie: when even the director can’t pull off his character’s “best” moment, you know it’s not going to get any better. And that’s the only way in which Reiner, and the movie, doesn’t disappoint.
Rating: 3/10 – complacency and insipidness abound in And So It Goes, making this a movie that audiences will struggle to get through; not even Douglas and Keaton can save this from becoming the latest nail in the coffin of Reiner’s directorial career.
*The other six movies: The Sure Thing (1985), Stand by Me (1986), The Princess Bride (1987), When Harry Met Sally… (1989), Misery (1990), and A Few Good Men (1992).