All things considered, it's rather sad that someone like Rob Reiner starts off his latest film with a defense of old-fashioned, handcrafted finishings while totally failing to follow through with them in the following 90 minutes. It beggars belief that this is the same Mr. Reiner responsible for one of the few stellar romantic comedies to come out of Hollywood in the last 30 years - the Nora Ephron-scripted When Harry Met Sally... - and for a number of well-judged, well-received eighties classics such as Stand by Me or The Princess Bride. And So It Goes is a half-hearted, entirely perfunctory attempt at romantic comedy that plods along disappointingly through a script (by As Good as It Gets co-writer Mark Andrus) that seems merely interested in ticking all the possible genre cliche boxes.
And yet, it's hard to deny there could be potential in this autumnal comedy about love in older ages, where a curmudgeonly Scrooge of a widowed real estate salesman (Michael Douglas) has his heart gradually softened by both the granddaughter he never knew he had (Sterling Jerins) and the ditzy widow next door (Diane Keaton). It could have - should have - been a gentle romance of comeuppance and learning to live life in your older years; instead, it's a messy combination of cheap sudsy melodrama and exasperating love-and-hate comedy, failing to grasp the possibilities of the material and unable to make the most out of a cast of old pros that seem to not be trying all too hard themselves. This sort of cold-hearted bastard is something Mr. Douglas does without even thinking, and the positively radiant Ms. Keaton is basically asked to play her typecast slightly off-centred middle-aged woman, while Frances Sternhagen, as Mr. Douglas' boss, gets off with the best lines in the script and steals the show from under everyone with a couple of well-judged shots.
There's a sense that And So It Goes is a sort of charity case, a film where everyone puts on a game face for the sake of lending a hand to a friend, but whose end result is an embarrassing wreck. Not the first time Mr. Reiner has underperformed - his latest success, The Bucket List, also addressed at older audiences but backed by a major studio, wasn't particularly inspired either - but this is so clumsily handled and the production values so clearly below average that any talk of "hand-crafted furnishings" goes instantly down the toilet. This doesn't look like the film of a veteran Hollywood player, it looks like the work of a disinterested hack for hire looking for the next job. And it's a shame.
AND SO IT GOES
Cast Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton, Sterling Jerins, Frances Sternhagen
Director Rob Reiner; screenwriter Mark Andrus; cinematographer Reed Morano (colour, widescreen); composer Marc Shaiman; designer Ethan Tobman; costumes Leah Katznelson and Ellen Mirojnick; editor Dorian Harris; producers Mr. Reiner, Alan Greisman and Mark Damon; production companies Castle Rock Entertainment, Foresight Unlimited and Envision Entertainment
Screened July 30th 2014, UCI El Corte Inglés 12 (distributor press screening)