Though it has some clever moments, and its leads work hard to win you over, And So It Goes is neither wickedly nasty enough nor sweet and romantic enough to really leave any sort of lasting impression. If anything, it should serve as a reminder that just about everyone involved here has done finer work in other films, and make audiences hope that they themselves will keep that in mind when selecting future projects.
As the film’s marketing more or less beats you over the head with, real estate agent Oren Little (Michael Douglas) is a tough guy to like, and he seems to prefer it that way. When he’s not pandering to and subsequently offending prospective buyers of the lavish multimillion dollar home he once lived in with his family, he’s unrepentantly antagonizing the other tenants in the apartment building where he currently dwells, including Leah (Diane Keaton), his chatty and bubbly next door neighbor. Parking his battleship-sized vintage car in the driveway so that no other residents can park close to the building? Check. Barking at the neighborhood children for making too much noise? Check. Smugly reminding any tenant who complains to the building manager that he, in fact, owns the building? Check.
As big a jerk as Oren is, he’d be the first to say that he shouldn’t be placed in charge of taking care of anyone else, especially not a child. But that’s exactly what happens when his estranged son Luke (Scott Shepherd) is forced to leave Sarah (Sterling Jerins, World War Z), his 9-year-old daughter, in Oren’s care while he serves a short jail sentence. Leah, who happens to step outside her apartment during the awkward and abrupt hand-off, immediately takes a shine to Sarah, a happy circumstance which Oren then attempts to take full advantage of while he scrambles to find a way out of looking after the granddaughter he’s just met.
Of course, there proves to be no way out of it, and its not long before the bright, creative-minded young lady, as well as the winsome Leah, start to crack through Oren’s well-worn self-centered and churlish act. Could Oren actually be a human being with a living, beating heart capable of warmth and love, after all? Unless you’ve never seen or read about a single Hollywood romantic comedy in your entire life, you should already know the answer to that question.
Screenwriter Mark Andrus (As Good as it Gets, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood) and veteran director Rob Reiner (The Bucket List) give Douglas plenty of chances to remind audiences of his dad Kirk, who practically defined “irascible” in his film heyday, as well as provide Keaton a number of opportunities to charm and to show off her singing voice. But as good as the two of them are, they never really click as an on-screen couple, and because of this you never lose the sense that these are actors playing roles, rather than “real” people in a love story. Add to that some surprisingly choppy story editing, subplots that wrap up far too quickly and neatly, and a complete lack of development of Sarah or any other supporting character and you’re left with a film in which just about every emotional beat feels false and forced. It’s a film that desperately wants you to leave the theater smiling and feeling good, but doesn’t give you enough in terms of drama, comedy, or romance to earn that good feeling.
That’s not to say that there’s nothing at all funny here. Actress Frances Sternhagen is a hoot in her every scene as Claire, a fellow realtor in Oren’s agency who’s just about the only person who can stand him, mainly because she’s a pill herself. Reiner himself also earns a few laughs in front of the camera as Artie, Leah’s always cheerful and poorly-toupeed piano accompanist. Are the chuckles inspired by those two bit performances enough to make And So it Goes worth your box-office bucks? Not even close. But they may make you feel better about the money and time spent while you’re there.
In short, feel free to consider And So it Goes yet another 2014 comedy that can stand to be put off until it’s available for rental. It’s not terrible, by any means — it’s just terribly underwhelming, which might be even worse to say of it, considering the talent involved.
Score: 2.5 out of 5
And So It Goes
Starring Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton, Sterling Jerins, Paloma Guzmán, Frances Sternhagen, Frankie Valli. Directed by Rob Reiner.
Running Time: 94 minutes
Rated PG-13 for some sexual references and drug elements.