CNN (US), December 11, 2003

'Something's Gotta Give' something good

Jack Nicholson-Diane Keaton pairing lights up screen

by Paul Clinton

(CNN) -- Sharp, witty, and deep-down funny, "Something's Gotta Give" is one of the best adult romantic comedies of the year -- or the last few years, for that matter.

Jack Nicholson plays Harry Sanborn, a 60-something record executive who only dates women under 30. The lovely Amanda Peet plays Marin Barry, Harry's latest conquest. While on a romantic weekend at her family's beach house in the Hamptons on Long Island, Marin and Harry are surprised by Marin's mother, Erica, played by Diane Keaton.

Deciding to be very adult about the situation, they all agree to stay and share the house for the weekend. But their mature plans abruptly change when Harry suffers chest pains during an intimate moment with young Marin.

He's rushed to the hospital, where he is treated by a handsome young doctor named Julian Mercer, played by Keanu Reeves. (And Reeves, in a third-banana role, actually pulls this part off quite well.) Julian, knowing a good thing when he sees it, falls hard for Erica, despite the age difference.

He also recommends that the only way Harry can be discharged from the hospital is to stay put at Erica's beach house for a few days of rest. The stage is set.

Opposites attracting

Erica is a divorced woman of a "certain age" who is also a successful playwright. She's accomplished and mature and is -- most of all -- not Harry's type. Not that Erica is panting over Harry either: she knows his type and wants nothing to do with this aging lothario.

They're stuck with each other, however -- Marin having returned to Manhattan -- and once alone Harry and Erica begin a slow emotional tango, as they find they have more in common then they'd ever thought possible. When their barriers begin to collapse, Harry panics and goes back to his old tricks with young chicks, while Erica succumbs to the young doctor's charms.

But don't underestimate the power of love between the two -- and the romantic charm of Paris, where the film comes to its highly satisfying conclusion.

The pairing of Keaton and Nicholson lights up the screen. These two Academy Award-winning actors become a well-oiled machine as they leap and twirl over the hurdles placed in their characters' paths.

The comedic timing and the sheer skill they display is wonderful. These two veterans make this delightful comedic confection look easy. (It isn't -- as the old saying goes, "Dying is easy, comedy is hard.")

Believing in love

Nicholson appears to be having a wonderful time sending up his own real-life image as a player with younger women. Keaton -- who in real-life has never tied the knot -- is terrific as a woman who dares to believe in the possibility of love after all hope has seemingly died.

Director and writer Nancy Meyers, who brought us the fine comedy "What Women Want" (2000), once again dissects the struggles between the sexes and creates another memorable and thoughtful comedy. This is Meyers' first time working with Nicholson, but she has had other successful collaborations with Keaton, including "Baby Boom" (1987), "Father Of The Bride" (1991) and "Father Of The Bride II" (1995). Keaton and Nicholson worked together in the 1981 drama "Reds" directed by their mutual friend Warren Beaty.

Perhaps most surprising of all is the performance Meyers gets from Reeves. Easy-going, charming, relaxed and believable are not descriptions I would give his past work. He has also never played "the other man" -- the one who doesn't get the girl -- but Meyers makes it all happen. Reeves has rarely been so appealing.

"Something's Gotta Give" is a wonderful antidote to this season's overwhelming epic-style films. This sparkling comedic gem will fit into everyone's stockings.

"Something's Gotta Give" opens nationwide on Friday, December 12, and is rated PG-13.

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