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November 27, 2014
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And So It Goes, a familiar formula falling flat

Actors Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton in a scene from the film And So It Goes.
By Ann Hornaday
The Washington Post (*)
From its opening aerial shots of the picturesque waterfront of Bridgeport, Connecticut, And So It Goes feels familiar — to a fault. The late-in-life romantic comedy, starring Michael Douglas as a curmudgeonly real estate agent and Diane Keaton as the sweet-natured lounge singer who wins his heart, has been directed by Rob Reiner in a clear effort to re-bottle the lightning of such hits as Nancy Meyers’s It’s Complicated and James Brooks’s As Good As It Gets. Taking one element from column Meyers, one from column Brooks and adding a side dish of Nora Ephron as needed, Reiner assembles a square meal of rom-com pleasure points, but it’s bland, by-the-numbers and not particularly memorable.

Douglas plays Oren Little, a prosperous widower who, still grieving for his late wife, has put his multimillion-dollar mansion up for sale and taken residence in a cramped four-plex he owns. One of his neighbours — and renters — is Leah (Keaton), a widow who sings romantic standards at a local pub, usually breaking down in tears midway through.

Doing his best to channel Jack Nicholson at his most anti-social, Douglas grumps and gruffs his way through the first scenes of And So It Goes, during which he angrily shoots a dog with a paint gun for pooping on his lawn, and inspires the neighbour children to imitate him yelling “Too much noise!” while wagging a peremptory finger. (It bears noting that the schematic, pro forma script was written by Mark Andrus, who wrote As Good As It Gets, the classic Nicholson-misanthrope vehicle.)

Not even the unexpected arrival of Oren’s 10-year-old granddaughter, Sarah (Sterling Jerins), seems to soften his soul. Rather than take her in, he fobs her off on Leah, who dotes on her with grandmotherly warmth and affection.

We all know where this is going, so suffice it to say that And So It Goes never upends those expectations for good or for ill: if it’s reassurance and mild-mannered smiles viewers are after, this is the place.

The film’s most alive moments belong to Keaton, who recalls her winsome turn in Annie Hall when she shakily delivers some sublime, beautifully arranged jazz ballads. She delivers a couple of amusing visual takes, too, like the furtive swig of wine she sneaks before a crucial plot point.

For the most part, though, And So It Goes lives up to its title. It’s the derivative, too-familiar cinematic version of a shrug and a sigh. Oh well.

Production notes

And So It Goes (USA, 2014). Directed by Rob Rener. Written by Marc Andrus. With Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton, Sterling Jerins, Annie Parisse. Cinematography by Reed Morano. Editing by Dorian Harris. Music by Marc Shaiman. Running time: 94 minutes.

@AnnHornaday

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