Sunday, July 27, 2014

And So It Goes (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

And So It Goes

As fate would have it, this month marks the 25th anniversary of a little 'platform' sleeper with a Greenwich Village word of mouth that is now part of our kosher cinema history. The film is "When Harry Met Sally".

It is well deserved.

The film had a daring deceptively simple structure. This was a smallish neighborhood borough film about two quirky quasi-neurotic people phobic in romance but uniquely finding desire for each other in the process. The film was cosy without being clunky with enough meaning and fun in its dialogue to actually speak about these characters (Billy Crystal's Harry Burns and Meg Ryan's Sally Bright) as  real people with unique and anxiously-charmed wishes and apprehensions.

The film snuck up on most of us and established Rob Reiner (an already provocative director with Stand by Me) as a consistently thoughtful and respected artist.

Furthermore, " When Harry Met Sally" paved the way for a New York sensibility to arrive to TV through "Seinfeld", a show whose long ago transmissions are still felt and seen today.

Now in 2014, here is "And So It Goes", a film that might have had all of the best intentions and has been anticipated from every baby boomer from the five boroughs and beyond, hoping to give some visual Viagra to the quirky but poignant cosmopolitan Rom-Com genre that has made Reiner and director James L. Brooks famous.

The film is also written by Mark Andrus (As Good as It Gets).

Oren Little (Michael Douglas) is a seersucker sourpuss realtor in Connecticut who stomps about in loafers.

Oren is used to getting his way.

When the camera moves on him, he is about to show his house for sale and is charmlessly insensitive if not outright rude to a black and hispanic couple.

No one really likes Oren but fellow peer Claire, (Frances Sternhagen) has a playful affection for him, given his veteran status.

Oren mopes around his family cottage, Little Shangri-La and is a snarky nuisance. His chief annoyance is a meaty Rottweiler who enjoys pooping on his lawn.

Enter the estranged and wet noodle son Luke (Scott Shepard), an insipid ex addict who is somehow implicated in a financial scam, and  about to go to the slammer.

Luke haphazardly (and inauthentically)  hands off his daughter Sarah (a cute Sterling Jerins) to his grouch dad, even though they have zero contact.

Leah, an empathetic widow and neighbor (Diane Keaton) falls for Sarah and reluctantly agrees to temporarily help Oren shoulder the load.

Leah is a mediocre singer at a cafe who ludicrously sobs at the drop of a fedora hat, waves her arms and wears silly Cyndi Lauper type outfits for no particular reason.

What follows are some milquetoast entanglements and tepid antics regarding Oren wanting to sell his house while being a good Grand and falling for the introspective but wild underneath, Leah.

A breezy romance is well and good, (goodness knows Reiner has earned his whimsical cred) but nothing much happens here.

Oren sputters and mutters, rolling his eyes with a now trademark Michael Douglas smirk. Oren is a soft-shoe patina of  the more evocative Jack Nicholson, James L Brooks-ish roles of the angry alpha man.

One scene with Sarah's addicted mother plays as sappy melodrama with a buggy mom all but going thunk on the sidewalk when Sarah comes to the lower tenement apartment.

Not one character (with the minor exception of Sarah) is fleshed out in a meaningful or real way. Douglas is such an obvious blend  of Nicholson and his own Gekko incarnation that he reads as a bland saltine figure.

Keaton is a worldly but weepy widow who largely emotes onstage but none of it is very compelling as Keaton's role also, too self consciously echoes other Brooks outings.

Rob Reiner is reduced to an amorous patsy who has a pratfall in the mode of Laurel & Hardy. This irrational silliness, combined with an unfunny baby delivery which feels dashed and inserted for quick smirks, doesn't play very brightly.

If "When Harry Met Sally" is a delicious  pastrami at Katz's Deli,  "And So It Goes" makes a  "meh" tempeh of pastoral comforts, sure to please only the most steadfast of urbanite Reiner fans.

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