July 26, 2014

And So It Goes

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A movie review by James Berardinelli



And So It Goes

DRAMA/COMEDY:

United States, 2014

U.S. Release Date:

2014-07-25

Running Length:

1:34

MPAA Classification:

PG-13 (Profanity, Sexual Content)

Theatrical Aspect Ratio:

1.85:1

Cast:

Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton, Sterling Jerins, Scott Shepherd, Frances Sternhagen, Rob Reiner

Director:

Rob Reiner

Screenplay:

Mark Andrus

Cinematography:

Reed Morano

Music:

Marc Shaiman

U.S. Distributor:

Clarius Entertainment

Subtitles:

none


With a title like And So It Goes, it would be reasonable to expect something generic and forgettable - and that would be in line with what the film delivers. Everything about the movie is as uninspired as the title. More bland than bad, And So It Goes is being dumped into a crowded mid-July schedule in the hope that someone tired of noisy blockbusters might see it. The problem is, as antidotes go, this one is most likely to induce sleep as a means of relief.

It's fair to say that the Rob Reiner with the Midas Touch, the man responsible for no fewer than seven great movies between 1984 (This Is Spinal Tap) and 1992 (A Few Good Men), has lost his way. Beginning with 1994's North, Reiner has consistently failed to recapture the magic of his early directorial career and And So It Goes is just another example of the mediocrity into which the filmmaker has settled. The movie wants to be about the power of love to transform but it ends up feeling like a lot of other similar movies that have done the same thing better. Twelve years after its release, I remember About a Boy. Twelve days after its release, I'll have trouble saying the same thing about And So It Goes.

Michael Douglas plays Oren Little, the resident grumpy old man of And So It Goes. Oren's a classic curmudgeon who lives in fourplex called "Little Shangri-la." His unit is next to that of Leah (Diane Keaton), a lounge singer who hasn't gotten over her husband's death, even though his passing isn't a recent event. Leah doesn't care for Oren; she finds him to be cold and callous. Other residents include a cop and his pregnant wife and a couple with two very loud kids. No one living there likes Oren but there's not much they can do about it - he owns the building. Oren's life takes a turn for what he considers to be the worse when his estranged son, Luke (Scott Shepherd), shows up with a young daughter, Sarah (Sterling Jerins), in tow. Luke is off to prison for a short term and he needs Grandpa to look after his child. Oren tries to refuse but there's not much he can do; Leah comes to the rescue to provide the uprooted girl with the friendly, stable presence she isn't getting from Oren. After that, the movie travels along a predictable trajectory as Oren loses his rough edges under the joint influence of Leah and Sarah.

The screenplay, credited to Mark Andrus (who wrote the much better As Good As It Gets some 17 years ago), at least avoids the kinds of annoying pitfalls that often infiltrate stories like this. There are thankfully no exes who come out of the woodwork to foul up the fragile romance between Oren and Leah and no unexpected would-be guardians who seek to swipe Sarah away from her grandfather. The only annoyingly sentimental touch is the inclusion of a dog.

By playing Oren, Michael Douglas, looking at times eerily like his father, has finally admitted that his days as a middle-aged leading man are over. Diane Keaton is comfortable in a role she has essayed before. Sterling Jerins is convincing as Sarah, although her part doesn't require a lot of range. Frances Sternhagen, playing a co-worker of Oren's at the real estate agency where he hangs his shingle, steals every scene she's in - unfortunately, she's not in many.

And So It Goes is a pea in a pod with Reiner's other post-1995 work; the only truly good movie he has made in the last 20 years is 2010's Flipped. This is vanilla and palatable. It won't cause indigestion but neither will it fill the belly of someone hungry for a substantial cinematic meal. It's a bland snack designed for an older crowd and, because the majority of those in target demographic no longer go to the movies, it will likely sink without a trace, making its way quickly to home video. That's perhaps not a bad thing because this is the kind of production that will likely play better on a small screen since there's nothing inherently bigger than life about it.

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