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And So It Goes Review

Review by Brandon Wolfe

Oren Little (Michael Douglas) is a real estate legend who prides himself on being able to sell anything. Looking to unload the majestic home where he raised his family as his final big score before heading off into the sunset, Oren shows a remarkable insensitivity toward his ethnically diverse potential buyers, transparently decorating the house with photographs of people from the same racial backgrounds as themselves (and even getting that wrong, as when he presents a Korean couple with pictures of Chinese people). And this is after we see him shoot a dog with a paintball gun to shoo it off of the property. For Oren, you see, is a huge jerk, a man who lost his wife some years back and has opted to wash his hands of all good graces ever since. He lives in a charming fourplex that he owns called Little Shangri-La, which he seems to love in spite of the fact that it’s a close-quarters property populated by a friendly, tight-knit community that Oren seems to loathe and can’t resist any opportunity to frustrate and belittle. His next-door neighbor Leah (Diane Keaton), a loopy, good-natured aspiring singer, frequently trades barbs with Oren, whose crusty disposition seems unfathomable to her. But one day, Oren’s life is upended by the arrival of his troubled son, who is headed off to jail for about six months and wants Oren to care for the granddaughter he never knew he had while he’s away. Oren, a man unaccustomed to doing favors for anyone regardless of blood relation, refuses, but his son’s persistence and Leah’s welcoming nature place the little girl into his orbit regardless.

Based on what I’ve described thus far, I’m pretty sure you could ascertain where ‘And So It Goes’ ends up going. The film is as sunshiny and fizzy as all get out. Oren, that nasty old cuss, can only hold out for so long before that adorable little girl melts his icy heart. He also forms a kind of fractured family unit with Leah, who initially does almost all of the heavy lifting taking care of Sarah (Sterling Jerins), to the point where the girl takes to calling this unrelated stranger “grandma”. Having each lost their spouses, Oren and Leah start a tentative relationship that keeps getting off-track because of Oren being a heel. Eventually Leah and Sarah restore so much of Oren’s lapsed humanity that he even helps to deliver the baby of the neighbor (Yaya DaCosta) with whom he previously wouldn’t bother to share a parking space.

Douglas is really all that ‘And So It Goes’ has going for it. The character is basically a sitcom version of Jack Nicholson’s Melvin Udall from the similarly titled ‘As Good As It Gets’, but Douglas is clearly having fun playing a jerk. Oren’s misanthropy never has any real bite because the movie is so Nerf-coated with lightweight pleasantness, but Douglas brings a sly-dog charm to his cornball putdowns. Keaton doesn’t fare quite as well. It’s a bit unsettling to watch her play the same mode of girly flibbertigibbet from her ‘Annie Hall’ days this deep into her sixties. The only other person in the cast who makes any kind of impression is a shockingly still-alive Frances Sternhagen as Oren’s salty office assistant. Her lines aren’t that great, either, but she delivers them with moxie.

But the film is a limp noodle, so bland and manufactured that it’s like a Hallmark Channel movie given a theatrical release with name actors. That Douglas will be redeemed is clear from the start, and there are really no bumps in the road on the path to that redemption. He doesn’t start to care about Sarah until he sees her biological mother, whom the movie presents as the most hilariously filthy and drugged-up wretch you ever did see, after which he drives the girl directly to an amusement park and everything is hunky-dory between the two from there on out. And his relationship with Leah suffers some minor personality conflicts, as well as Oren’s decision to make a hasty post-coital exit, but there are no surprises there, either. And it makes no sense why Oren, a man with no apparent need or desire for human contact, would choose to live amongst this hap-hap-happy bunch of loving neighbors. He shares a front porch with Leah and the children of his upstairs neighbors play with their Slip-N-Slide about six feet from his front door. Why would such a man put himself into an environment that practically demands that he be connected to the lives of others? Could he get that much joy from blocking the driveway and making snide insults?

Directed by Rob Reiner, ‘And So It Goes’ is a film by the hottest cast and crew of 1986. It’s obviously made to appeal to an older, more mature audience, and to act as counterprogramming against the more youth-oriented summer-movie offerings filling multiplexes. But for as much as the film would like to posit itself as a smarter, more adult alternative, it has a script as shoddy and dim as anything else playing in the neighboring auditoriums that this audience would look down their nose at. The film is essentially something you could envision Sandler and Barrymore making 15 years down the road. Reiner (who, by the way, puts in a cameo as a guy in a toupee who slips and falls on that Slip-N-Slide) might think he’s giving older crowds an antidote to youthful drivel, but this is still a movie that tries to squeeze a laugh out of a dog humping a giant teddy bear.


Aaron Jones said…
You're too kind in your review, even though you're correct in all that you wrote. I think it's one of the worst movies of the year.

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