It’s official: there’s life in the rom-com yet. That is, if the cast includes two established stars with great chemistry, a sparkling script and an able director.
Harry (Jack Nicholson) is the perennial playboy with a penchant for ladies under 30. But his health has finally caught up with his excesses as he develops chest pains whilst on a visit to his latest infatuation Marin’s (Amanda Peet) mother’s beach house.
The mother, divorced successful playwright Erica Barry (Diane Keaton), soon finds herself becoming Harry’s reluctant nurse – and against the odds begins to like her charge. But Harry’s doctor Julian (Keanu Reeves) steps into Erica’s lonely life when Harry uncharacteristically hesitates.
As he returns to his old life, it slowly begins to unravel as he realises he’s in love, and with a woman of his own age. For Harry, nothing can ever be the same again – but he needs to undergo a true change of heart if he is to win her back.
Diane Keaton gets the contrasting sides of Erica’s personality – lonely, defensive writer in turtlenecks and longing lady awaiting discovery – just about perfect, even if her perpetual sighs grate as the film progresses. Nicholson, now nearly 70, is far more credible as an old duffer with heart problems than he is as the owner of a hip-hop label and object of young ladies’ desires, and we end up seeing that indeed Harry is more old man than the eternally youthful playboy we meet at the start of the film. Still, he does slapstick in a hospital gown as well as could be expected.
Keanu Reeves, however, is the weakest link. He looks like he showed up at the shoot as a substitute Julian at the last minute, and no-one had time to even make his hair look the part of a doctor rather than a skateboarder. But no matter – Frances McDormand and Amanda Peet are excellent as Erica’s sister and daughter respectively.
For anyone who thought that rom-coms were deathly unoriginal, Something’s Gotta Give won’t prove them wrong. What shines here is the method by which a tried and tested formula can be made to sparkle with acerbic wit, well-judged lead performances and a credible director. Nancy Meyers also gave the world What Women Want, but on the evidence of Something’s Gotta Give, we can forgive her. Take your loved one along and admire the kind of happy ending we can all but wish for ourselves.