Whoever heard of a romantic comedy running two hours and 20 minutes? Somewhere along the way, writer-director Nancy Meyers (What Women Want) forgot she was making a simple entertainment and decided that Something’s Gotta Give was going to be a Statement About the Human Condition. Or, what passes for this in Hollywood comedy land - a Comedy-Drama-in-the-style-of-James-L.-Brooks (As Good As It Gets, Terms of Endearment).One of the worst facets of studio screenwriting is its rigid adherence to formula. Boy meets girl, but then boy/girl has to lose girl/boy and be reunited before we can be sure they could ever be happy together. During the relatively zippy first 90 minutes of Something’s Gotta Give, Diane Keaton’s zanily neurotic rich playwright meets Jack Nicholson’s lovable millionaire cradle-snatcher. It takes that long for Erica and Harry to hit it off, not least because of complications posed by Harry’s girlfriend (Amanda Peet), who happens to be Erica’s daughter, and Harry’s doctor (Keanu Reeves), who is gently but persistently courting Erica.
A more confident screenwriter or director would have known when to stop, but Meyers can’t help herself. Never mind that Erica and Harry have taken longer than normal to get together, we still have to separate them and wait for a lengthy reconciliation scene, six months later. Complete, of course, with the requisite clichéd it-was-really-you-I-loved-all-the-time speech.
By the time Something’s Gotta Give stretches beyond the two-hour mark, its earlier pleasures are close to evaporating. Which is unfortunate, since they were considerable. It’s a real joy to see Diane Keaton in full flight, steely brilliance softened by her disarming, uncontrollable giggling. Jack seems bewitched by his co-star, and it’s a drag when Keaton’s not on the screen or else is forced to mope around pining. Frances McDormand is typically delightful as an acerbic women’s studies professor and friend of Erica. Keanu is unsurprisingly stiff, but Amanda Peet shows herself adept at comedy.Meyers concocts some snappy, breezy dialogue for the first half of Something’s Gotta Give. A shame she got high on the importance of her own story and smothered its light charm to death.