Jack Nicholson has been dying in movies since before Easy Rider, but About Schmidt was the first to put him face to face with mortality, leaving him alive but awake to the fact that he'll have to pack it in one of these days. In Something's Gotta Give, Nicholson plays a man who's worlds apart from Warren Schmidt, but who comes to wear Schmidt's knowledge for all the world to see. That adds a touch of gravity to Nancy Meyers' pleasantly but deceptively lightweight film, a romantic comedy that takes a rare tack by leaving its characters different from how it finds them. Nicholson begins the film as a man happy to keep reminders of aging at arm's length: He's driving to a romantic Hamptons weekend with girlfriend Amanda Peet, the latest in his string of nubile twentysomethings. But their getaway is interrupted by the arrival of Peet's playwright mother, Diane Keaton, then by a mild heart attack that leaves him recuperating in the latter's beach house. The setup is about as obvious as they come, but Meyers steers away from romantic-comedy clichés until she has no other choice. Sure, she throws in the occasional cutesy moment set to a pop-song counterpoint, and she sends a woozy, bare-bottomed Nicholson out to wander the hospital halls. But she keeps feinting in one direction, then going in the other and setting up a couple of love triangles that never quite lock into place as expected. Peet is at the corner of one of them, while at the other is Keanu Reeves as a handsome doctor whose admiration for Keaton's plays becomes a desire for the woman herself. Still, Something's Gotta Give is Keaton's and Nicholson's movie, and the pairing proves inspired. Nicholson plays a humane variation on his eternal-lech persona, but Keaton is the revelation. Or maybe it's just a re-discovery. Having spent a few years plugging away in films that were beneath her–some, it should be noted, also written by Meyers–she steps back into the spotlight as if she'd never left, reviving the tart winsomeness that made her a star, but picking up blue notes with age. (Meyers makes her look luminous, too. Nobody tries to hide the wrinkles, but it's no stretch when all the men in the movie start falling for her.) Something's Gotta Give's greatest strength is occasionally its greatest weakness, as it coasts on Keaton and Nicholson's chemistry while letting the plot hang slack in the background. In some stretches, it could use the snap, and in others, it becomes apparent how much the stars bring to material that's not exactly The Philadelphia Story. But mostly, it's just a pleasure to watch Keaton and Nicholson learning new steps in an old dance, stumbling to grab at happiness before it's too late.
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