"AND SO IT GOES" — 2½ stars — Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton, Scott Shepherd, Sterling Jerins ; PG-13 (some sexual references and drug elements); in general release.
“And So It Goes" is about two neighbors who live next door in the same apartment complex, but inhabit very different worlds.
Michael Douglas plays Oren Little, a widowed Realtor who is trying to sell off his multimillion-dollar home before retreating to Vermont to live out his days. He owns the apartment complex and is slumming in one of its units, which gives him the perceived right to harass his fellow tenants by hogging the parking and generally behaving like a dictator.
Diane Keaton plays Leah, a struggling wannabe lounge singer who cooks excellent pasta. She can’t get through any of the songs on her outdated set list without breaking down into tears. Unlike Douglas, she seems to have a soul.
They will get together by the end of the movie. We know this because they are both on the movie poster and because movies have trained us to expect this. Reality might suggest otherwise.
The plot, then, is constructed around the obstacles impeding Oren and Leah’s own “happily ever after.” The primary obstacle? Oren is so selfish, self-centered and unlikable that when his troubled son Luke (Scott Shepherd) pleads with him to take care of his daughter, Sarah, while he serves a brief prison sentence, Oren refuses.
There’s unlikable, then there’s “sending your own flesh and blood to foster care” unlikable, and in a film that’s supposed to manage a delicate balance between comedy and drama, Oren often feels like too much to handle.
Luckily, Leah steps in to save the day, taking in Sarah (Sterling Jerins) herself, and she begins to work Oren’s only grandchild into his life at the same time that Oren tries to help Leah with her singing career. In the meantime, Oren keeps working on selling his house, and his relationship with Leah begins to move forward.
In films like this, where there isn’t a whole lot of action to move the plot, often the charisma of the leads must be enough to hold the audience’s attention. “Words and Pictures” is a recent example. But in spite of the formidable talents of Douglas and Keaton, “And So It Goes” just feels like myriad parts that never quite fit together the right way.
Maybe it’s just too hard to relate to a character who is adamant about getting $8 million for his home in today’s economy. Maybe it’s because we know that Rob Reiner is capable of making movies like “This is Spinal Tap,” and this one just feels lame. Maybe we’re just distracted because Frankie Valli shows up in a cameo at the same time you can catch another movie about his life story across town, and we wonder if a hole is about to be ripped in the space-time continuum.
A bizarre baby-birthing scene that can’t be described in mere words certainly doesn’t help the situation. Be assured, it isn’t that it’s graphic. It just doesn’t fit, and it’s one of several moments that leave the audience a bit stunned and lacking words.
Whatever the reason, “And So It Goes” will probably go out with a whimper instead of a bang. It’s a quiet film that means well, but good intentions won’t pave the way to box office heaven in this case.
“And So It Goes” is rated PG-13 for some sexual references and drug elements; running time: 94 minutes.
Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photojournalist who appears weekly on "The KJZZ Movie Show" and also teaches English composition for Salt Lake Community College. More of his work is at woundedmosquito.com.