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Wednesday, March 31, 2004
Science advances with age
By KAORI SHOJI
I used to think that science-fiction meant aliens and giant meteors, but with each passing year I become convinced that sci-fi (at least in the movies) needs to be, if not redefined, then expanded. At the risk of offending Mr. Arthur C. Clarke and NASA, it seems there's more mystery and uncharted territory in the issue of old age and how it's depicted than anything Mars might have to offer. For something truly futuristic, look no further than "Something's Gotta Give."
Directed by Nancy Meyers ("Father of the Bride"), "Something's Gotta Give" pairs the 58-year-old Diane Keaton with the 67-year-old Jack Nicholson in a romanEtic comedy that has as much lovey-doveyEness as anything Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks pulled off 15 years ago. While the initial reaction to this is probably "how nice," it soon gives way to awkward feelEings of not knowing where to look. This is not to put down romance between older couples Eit happens all the time, in real life and the movies. But "Something's GotEta Give" puts the whole thing on par with a scientific breakthrough.
For starters, there's lots of sex, or disEcussions about sex. And there's the whole gamut of heart-rending misunderstandEings, followed by delicious reconciliaEtions. In short, old people behave just like young people and don't worry about a few creases or sags or (more to the point) fatigue getting in the way.
Once upon a time in Hollywood it was pretty much unthinkable to create a love story around an older couple, much less get them to disrobe in front of the camEera. Apart from the fact that such conEcepts were not very marketable, it was probably difficult to find actors who would consent to parade their no-longer-young selves as objects of desire. In "Something's Gotta Give," however, Jack and Diane both shed articles of clothing with candor, and the viewer is split between wanting to applaud them for their audacity or fidget at the position of unwanted voyeur (really, are we that keen to see Jack Nicholson's naked butt a total of three times?) Or maybe we should just get over it and get with the trend Ein the age of longevity spurred by Viagra and cosmetic surgery, this is where love stories are headed.
In what could be described as an anti-matter Woody Allen story, Diane Keaton stars as successful playwright Erica, whose 28-year-old daughter Marin (AmanEda Peet) is about to launch into a relationEship with record-company president HarEry (Nicholson). Keaton, a longtime muse of Allen's, finds herself in a quintessenEtially un-Allen like situation: as a mother (Allen's eternal enemy), she sidesteps her daughter (Allen's eternal love) to become the focus of amorous attention. Harry falls for her, and Harry's handsome doctor, JuElien Mercer (Keanu Reeves in a side-splitEting self-parody), also professes himself helplessly smitten.
And why not? To Meyers' credit, her lens enhances all the natural, graceful beauty of Diane Keaton in a way Allen hasn't done since "Annie Hall." Much ink has been spilled on how good she looks, and indeed Keaton glows more in "SomeEthing's Gotta Give" than she has in years. In fact, this could be the ultimate modern-day feminist fable: A woman nearing 60 finds herself in a win-win situEation regarding career, looks, love, and she gets all the trimmings on the side, like a great wardrobe and a splendid house in the Hamptons.
Nicholson as Harry, on the other hand, is also the fairy-tale male. In his late 60s, he has made the cover of New York MagEazine as "The Escape Artist" and claims to only date women under 30. But he feels age catching up when he tries to bed Marin and has a heart attack Ehe finalEly realizes at this stage in life what other men had felt as early as their 30s. What he really needs in a woman is someone to talk to in the middle of the night.
Here's where the fairy tale gets exagEgerated: It's Harry who dumps Marin, and not the other way around. It's Harry who decides that Erica's Wisdom and Maturity more than compensate for youthful showiness. When he sleeps with Erica for the first time, he says with a kind of boyish wonder: "I've never seen a woman that old, naked." The most dead-on factor about "Something's Gotta Give" is the title.
As life grows longer in the developed world, and the market economy joins hands with the media to pressurize evEeryone into staying fit and desirable forEever, something indeed better give or we may all crack under the strain. ParadoxEically, it doesn't help that this movie shows us how the joyous (or tortuous: take your pick) ordeal of love and sex can still rule one's life, years after the age of what Goethe had called "almost total resignation and utter calm." On a personal level, I'm just glad my grandEmother isn't around to witness it. I shudEder to think what it would have done to her blood pressure.