Throughout his career Michael Douglas has often played contemptibly selfish men in need of humbling or redemption. If you've already seen him play such a character in Wall Street or Solitary Man, you've seen him do it in a more interesting story, giving a more nuanced and engaging performance.
In And So It Goes, he plays a real estate salesman named Oren Little. Through expository dialogue we learn Oren has made a fortune from it. Apparently, screenwriter Mark Andrus (As Good As It Gets) was too lazy to figure out how to show viewers his skill at wooing clients. While he may be retiring, it's hard to believe he has persuaded anyone to buy a house given the stale, sexist-racist patter he throws out to buyers. Lame jokes about Sammy Davis Jr. would have sent prospects running to the door 20 years ago.
Had my father talked to clients like that, I'd have had to support him when I was attending the University of Arkansas at Little Rock instead of the other way around. Douglas is supposed to be like the sharklike Realtor Al Pacino played in Glengarry Glen Ross. Instead, he comes across as the pitiful schlemiel played by Jack Lemmon in that movie.
Oren doesn't have the charm to counteract his lame pitches. He lives in a small apartment in a building he owns, so he can verbally abuse anyone who makes the mistake of greeting him. No matter how rudely he behaves toward his neighbors, he can't be evicted.
That starts to change when Oren's son Luke (Scott Shepherd) shows up informing him that he's a grandfather (which shouldn't be too surprising at Oren's age) and that Oren'll be responsible for the girl (Sterling Jerins). Luke is on his way to prison.
Neither Andrus nor director Rob Reiner has found a way to make Oren's conversion from curmudgeon to grandpa convincing. Instead of dealing with the problems of drug addiction honestly, Reiner and Andrus consistently stack the deck in Luke's favor, which makes Oren come off as little more than a cartoon. The characters in Planes are more realistically human.
That's astonishing considering that Diane Keaton plays Oren's kindly but grieving neighbor Leah. Keaton looks great and does reasonably well as a singer who can't get through a set without crying about the loss of her husband. Conveniently, cancer has robbed Oren of his spouse as well. Because the plot is so telegraphed, viewers can guess where the relationship will go even before the characters do. (It's also a shame to waste Frankie Valli in a cameo as a skeptical club owner; a duet with Keaton might have temporarily relieved the monotony of the rest of the movie.)
It's a shame that Andrus and Reiner failed to realize that mature viewers want to do more than catnap through a film. And So It Goes is a movie clearly marketed for adults but seemingly made under the impression that grown-ups want to see Oscar winners in roles they could perform under sedation.
MovieStyle on 07/25/2014
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