Title: And So It Goes
Director: Rob Reiner
Starring: Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton, Sterling Jerins, Scott Shepherd and Rob Reiner
People can be so stuck in their ways, and be unwilling to change their opinions and views on the people and situations around them, that they often times unfortunately refuse to change their personalities and decisions, even if a new outlook would surely improve their lives. That lack of interest in exploring how new ideas and outlooks can truly improve life is one of the main driving forces in director Rob Reiner’s new romantic comedy, ‘And So It Goes.’ While a forced and unexpected shift in the family dynamic of the movie’s main character, Oren Little, is the only thing that made the businessman ponder making better choices in his life, the helmer hasn’t truly updated his filmmaking techniques since debuting in the 1980s. That lack of character and plot evolution unfortunately made his latest effort a predictable, cliche-fueled romantic comedy.
‘And So It Goes’ follows Oren (Michael Douglas), a highly praised realtor who wants nothing more than to sell his family’s mansion before retiring to a life of peace and quiet. But people find the successful businessman to be obnoxious, which is just the way he likes it, as he has cut off all emotional attachments after the death of his wife over 10 years ago. As he waits to sell his house, Oren is living in the waterfront four-plex building he owns, the Little Shangri-La. While the widower is surrounded by friendly neighbors in a close-knit community, he tries to avoid them as much as possible, except when he’s upset about how noisy the kids are or is arguing over the driveway space. Oren even rebuffs the kind invitation by next-door neighbor, Leah (Diane Keaton), who persists on inviting him to their yard mojito happy hour.
Oren is content with confiding in his only true friend, fellow realtor Claire (Frances Sternhagen), as the two have a decades-long history, and she can keep up in delving out his snark sarcasm. He turns to his co-worker for advice when his estranged son, Luke (Scott Shepherd), resurfaces on Oren’s doorstep, asking him to temporarily care for the nine-year-old granddaughter, Sarah (Sterling Jerins), he never knew existed. Oren grudgingly agrees to take her in, but quickly offers to pay Leah to watch Sarah for him. While he’s eager to pretend like his son isn’t headed to jail for a nine-month sentence, Oren is soon forced to contend with caring for his granddaughter when Leah sets out to figure out her own life path.
While Leah is struggling to find a second identity as a lounge singer, with the help of doting pianist Artie (Rob Reiner), Sarah’s need for love and affection brings her grandfather and his neighbor closer together. As Oren becomes more accepting of the temporary custody arrangement, Oren discovers Leah is more than just helpful in caring for Sarah. Leah also realizes her neighbor isn’t as tough as he wants people to believe. The unexpected bonding over caring for Sarah leads the two adults to discover they’re both willing to open their hearts to new family and friends, as well as a different lifestyle they have both come to cherish.
Reiner notably and admirably set out to infuse a unique and distinct voice in the romantic comedy genre with ‘And So It Goes.’ The director seemingly wanted to show that even with the distinct backgrounds and personalities Oren and Leah have, and their initial mutual contempt they have for each other’s clashing views, people can truly connect once they embark on a challenging journey in life. While Leah still passionately cries as she reflects on her life with her late husband, even during her singing act at the lounge, Oren is still hesitant to admit how much pain he’s still experiencing over the loss of his wife and estrangement from his son.
Even though the film is driven by people’s willingness to give love a second chance, from Oren and Leah finding romance again after the deaths of their spouses, to the realtor reconnecting with his son and caring for his granddaughter, those obstacles don’t make the romantic comedy any different from other films in the genre. Oren is the archetype of all disillusioned men weary of emotions and connections, while Leah is the epitome of the modest woman who’s constantly in touch with her feelings, and is always driven to make those around her happy.
While ‘And So It Goes’ is driven with endless cliches that notoriously drive the romance genre, Reiner’s comedy-drama is fueled by a witty and entertaining performance by Keaton. Though Leah has difficulty in recognizing her own inner strength and goodness, even with her natural ability to argue with Oren on his faults, the actress gracefully infused her character with a genuine frankness and honesty that makes the film more engaging. Leah is the perfect character to make Oren ponder why he’s so determined not to emotionally connect with anyone after his wife died.
The often turbulent relationship between Oren and Leah is highlighted by the serene look and feeling of the small waterfront town the two lived in, which was created by production designer Ethan Tobman. The stark differences in the two characters’ lifestyles and personalities were captivatingly highlighted by the diverse sets Tobman crafted. From the pristine and elaborate mansion Oren and his family lived in after he bought it over 30 years ago, to the small, clutter and nondescript nature of the Little Shangri-La, which he begrudgingly settled into after the dismantling of his family, the film’s locations just as powerfully showcased how different the two main characters originally were from each other as the dialogue did.
‘And So It Goes’ is unfortunately a feeble attempt at romantic comedy from the once powerful Reiner, who rightfully garnered attention for such films as ‘The American President,’ ‘When Harry Met Sally…’ and ‘The Princess Bride.’ The filmmaker’s latest effort in the romantic comedy genre is fueled by overly familiar and predictable characters who only realize they care about after being pushed together by an initially distressing situation. While Tobman beautifully incorporated visually stunning locations into the movie, which powerfully draw attention to Oren and Leah’s different personalities, the filmmaker’s latest romantic comedy genre unfortunately fails to offer any new or exciting ideas on the genre.
Written by: Karen Benardello