Something’s Gotta Give

Film Review by Jeffrey Winters

Something’s Gotta Give is a delightful love story in which the written word is acted with skill, finesse, and a sense of abandon. The intensity of Jack Nicholson as music executive Harry Langer and co-star Diane Keaton as single, neurotic and highly successful playwright Erica Barry almost resembles the close interaction of two heavyweight fighters circling each other in the ring, always looking at each other regardless of the emotion.

Years ago, I met a well known writer who told me: “Any good love story is never about when the two lovers are together, but what keeps them apart and how they battle to get back to each other.” Nora Ephron has written several popular love stories which exemplify this: When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless In Seattle. We in the audience root for the lovers to unite.

In Something’s Gotta Give writer-director Nancy Meyers (What Women Want), uses a similar formula as Ephron by writing in an urban (New York) witty style where the written word is taken by the actors and embellished with tears, grins, laughter and confused expressions. Watching the many reaction shots on Nicholson and Keaton’s face becomes as vivid as listening to the crisp dialogue.

Meyers’ screenplay forces the characters to interact regardless of how awkward or emotional the subject. There are no monologues, soliloquies or people talking at each other. As a result, Diane Keaton gives a tremendous performance by acting off Jack Nicholson and vice versa. The ping-pong effect of their acting lifts the story into a fun romp.

Harry (Nicholson) is 63 and has only dated younger women for 40 years. The story opens with him driving up to a beautiful beach front home in the Hamptons. His companion is 30 year old Marin (Amanda Peet). They’ve arrived to spend a weekend making love and enjoying small talk. They are both surprised when Marin’s mother, Erica (Keaton) and her sister Zoe (Frances McDormand) walk in

to also spend a weekend in the luxurious home. Harry looks at Erica like a kid on the playground staring at a friend’s grandmother. For him a middle aged woman is an alien creature.

Shortly after they all have dinner, Harry (Nicholson) has a heart attack. He is told by Dr. Mercer (Keanu Reeves) that he can’t return to New York City. Harry reluctantly ends up staying at Erica’s house to recover. They both share the home, walks on the beach and a sense of weirdness towards each other.

This unexpected arrangement forces Harry to get to know Erica (Keaton). To his surprise he discovers a lovely, sexy and intelligent woman who understands him.

How they both fight themselves and the relationship is the crux of the love story. Seated in the row behind us was a group of women friends. I thought they were going to split a collective gut laughing. That’s what matters in this film. Laughing out loud with pleasure.

Something’s Gotta Give is refreshing because it makes us laugh and look at how difficult relationships and love can be. And how worthwhile.