There is precious little in Rob Reiner's latest filma golden-years romantic comedy titled And So It Goesthat bears any resemblance to real life. The set-up is that all-too-familiar story of opposites ( eventually ) attracting that has long been a staple of Hollywood; a purposely fake world where the two oppositesshe, a would-be cabaret singer dressed to the nines, can make $1,500 a week; and he, a wealthy cranky pants mourning his late wife who can get her the only-in-the-movies job in the first placewill eventually find common ground in true Pillow Talk-Doris Day-Rock Hudson tradition and improbably fall in love.
The fuddy-duddy storyfrom a script by Mark Andrus ( As Good As It Gets, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Georgia Rules )is forgivable because Diane Keaton and Michael Douglas are playing the singer and the fussbudget. The star power and palpable chemistry of the two is very winning ( they could play this stuff in their sleep ), and the expert supporting turns by Frances Sternhagen and Rob Reiner ( who also directs )acting pros with crack timing in the supporting partsslowly overcomes the disjointed script that seems to be made up of random pieces that don't really fit together.
Douglas is Oren Little, a cynical high-end realtor who has moved from the luxurious mansion he shared with his late wife ( and is now trying to sell ) into a cozy apartment building he owns by Keaton's Leah, who is also widowed and who hopes to turn her singing hobby into a career. Oren lords over the other inhabitants of the buildingan African -American couple expecting a baby at any moment and a rather nondescript pair distinguished by their noisy kids. As the others gather in the courtyard each night to socialize and take in the picturesque sunset, Oren is the perpetual fifth wheel in this cozy group, sneering at their complaints and practically clapping his hands with glee after delivering another nasty rejoinder.
"Do people really let you get away with … you?" Leah asks him early on, but Oren is unperturbedthat is until his wayward son, who is headed for a stint in prison after a drug bust, abruptly drops off his daughter on his doorstep ( along with a stray dog ). Orenwho has earlier blissfully shot the dog pooping on his manicured lawn with a paintball gunis horrified at the thought of being responsible for a granddaughter he's never seen. He browbeats Leah into helping him care for the little darling ( who is played by World War Z's Sterling Jerins ) while he tries to make other arrangements for her. From that moment we know that Oren's misanthropic ways will soon go the way of the Edsel and the wind-up phonograph.
Going in, the audience also knows that Oren will find the true meaning of life, bond with the little darling and find renewed love with Leah by the fade-out. It's only the latter that is really in doubt ( and this plot point I will not reveal ) but, again, this familiarity is made bearable because Douglas so relishes his role as the miserable Scrooge. ( "I have sold houses older than youand in a lot worse condition" Oren says to Leah, insisting that it's a compliment. )
Keaton, this generation's Katharine Hepburnwho sings lush, romantic standards like "The Shadow of Your Smile" in her lovely, timorous voiceso perfectly embodies the elderly, slightly dotty oddball. The honest emotional intensity these two bring to their parts; Reiner's sure direction with actors ( always his strongest suit ); and a sufficient number of zippy, sitcomish laughs throughout make And So It Goes a nice summer alternative to the usual fare of planets exploding, superheroes battling forces of evil or teens being slashed by vengeful spirits.
Cinemark Theatres, in partnership with 20th Century Fox, is presenting My Favorite Musicals, a marathon screening of three beloved songfests: 2001's Moulin Rouge, 1969's Hello Dolly and 1955's Oklahoma.
Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor co-star as the ill-fated songbirds in Mouline Rouge, director Baz Luhrman's frenetic musical pastiche. Barbra Streisand, though too young to play the leading role in Gene Kelly's Hello Dolly, nevertheless manages to enliven this lavish but otherwise rather leaden adaptation of the long running Broadway smash. And Gordon McRae, Shirley Jones, Charlotte Greenwood, Gloria Grahame, Rod Steiger, Eddie Albert and Gene Nelson are perfectly cast in Fred Zinnemann's glorious big screen adaptation of the Rodger's and Hammerstein cowboys vs. farmers stage hit.
All the movies have been digitally remastered and Oklahoma has been painstakingly restored for this rare theatrical presentation. The movies screen together on Saturday, July 26, and Tuesday, July 29, beginning at 1 p.m. at the Century 12 Evanston, 1715 Maple Ave., Evanston. I'll be on hand to introduce the Tuesday, July 29, screening of Oklahoma at 7 p.m. http://www.cinemark.com/theatre-detail.aspx?node_id=1658
Another classic musical: The Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave., is screening Vincente Minnelli's 1944 Technicolor masterpiece Meet Me in St. Louis as part of its 11;30 a.m. weekend matinee series on Saturday, July 26, and Sunday, July 27. The musical focuses on a year in the lives of the well-to-do Smith family at the turn of the 20th century ( gorgeously recreated on the MGM backlot ) as their world is thrown upside down when the father announces the family is moving to New York. Judy Garlandachingly tender and beautiful and in sensational voice as the second oldest daughteris in love with the handsome boy next door ( Tom Drake ). http://www.musicboxtheatre.com/features/meet-me-in-st.-louis
Czech director Jan Hrebejk's Honeymoonwhich played at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St., as the closing-night film of its European festis having a return engagement on Sunday, July 27, and Wed., July 30. The movie centers on the wedding weekend of a very photogenic couple ( the groom is a heavyset dead ringer for Michael Fassbender ) attended by family and close friends. The festivities are interrupted by the arrival of a mysterious male stranger who wants the bride to know exactly what kind of man she's marrying. It's not the usual closeted gay thing one expects and makes for a very compelling movie. www.siskelfilmcenter.com
Now available: The Best of Knight at the Movies: 2004-2014a compilation book of more than 150 of my film reviews from a queer perspective for Windy City Timesis now available. www.knightatthemovies.com .