Oren Little (Michael Douglas) is a realtor at the end of his career. He lost his beloved wife, Sarah, and wants to sell their house and move to Vermont. His plans, though, are about to change when his son Luke (Scott Shepherd), on his way to prison, unexpectedly drops by to deliver something Oren did not know he had – a granddaughter named Sarah (Sterling Jerins) – in “And So It Goes."
Rob Reiner directs the screenplay by Mark Andrus and, I am sorry to say, that good actors are wasted on a clichéd script. Countless times we have seen the story of an old curmudgeon who is forced to take care of a child left by son/daughter/distant relative or whatever. Of course, the curmudgeon’s heart softens as he grows to love his ward and they all live happily ever after. That, in a nutshell, is “And So It Goes.”
The stars Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton (as Oren’s tenant and love-interest-to-be Leah), though given a weak script, are veterans and try to give some life to their characters. They, and the cuddly group of supporting characters, make “And So It Goes” a bit better than it should be. But, that is not enough for me. I give it a C.
After his wife died of cancer, Connecticut realtor Oren Little (Michael Douglas) has become a bitter man. He's trying to sell the family home for what it used to be worth while staying in a dingy, cramped apartment in the fourplex known as Little Shangri-La. He's a curmudgeon with no consideration for his neighbors (the kids upstairs imitate him chanting 'Too much noise! Too much noise!') and when his estranged son Luke (Scott Shepherd, "Side Effects") begs him to care for his 10 year-old granddaughter, Sarah (Sterling Jerins, "World War Z"), he foists her off on lounge singer Leah (Diane Keaton) who lives next store. But when he sees her act at The Oaks Bistro, Oren's moved, and Sarah's natural inquisitiveness begins to break down barriers in "And So It Goes."
Director Rob Reiner ("The Bucket List") used to make good movies back in the 80's and 90's, but his turnout in the 2000's has been pretty dire. His latest, from "As Good As It Gets" writer Mark Andrus, isn't going to break that streak, but it has its charms, buoyed by the performances of two old pros and a delicious turn from "Misery's" Frances Sternhagen as Oren's long time colleague Claire.
Oren's the type of guy whose condescending marketing strategies (he plants 'family' photographs in the perceived ethnicity of his clients) usually backfire. He's at war with the playful Rottweiler who pees on his property's lawn. At home, he parks his Mercedes convertible in two spaces, forcing a heavily pregnant upstairs neighbor into a longer walk. Why would such a misanthrope live in such close quarters with others? The 'Little' of his waterside abode reflects his ownership. The only good thing we know about this man is that he truly loved his wife.
But a hint of humanity peaks through as he watches Leah break down in tears while singing 'Both Sides Now' at a local restaurant, a habit she is unable to break because the song reminds her of her late husband. He commends her singing, but advises her that she mustn't banter about dead people. When Luke, whom Oren hasn't forgiven for the former drug addiction that kept him away when his mother was dying and whose current prison sentence hasn't helped matters, arrives with Sarah - and the Rottweiler - in tow, Leah and Sarah bond immediately (although Sarah's tagging her 'Grandma' seems absurdly premature). Oren remains unmoved, until an attempt to give the girl to her birth mother Rita (Meryl Williams), whose proximity should have been a red flag, opens his eyes.
Andrus's tale goes exactly where we expect, but he throws a few curveballs to keep things interesting. A revelation about Luke's prison sentence flies in the face of preconceived notions. Oren and Leah's first romantic interlude goes awry. A Hispanic couple's interest in Oren's home causes both an embarrassing assumption from Claire and a heart warming breakthrough for Oren. (The home movie Sarah makes about a caterpillar's metamorphosis, however, is just too much icing on the cake.) But Reiner's choices are often sloppy, beginning with the cheesy font of the film's title credits. The dog's assumed into the mix, then lost for a time, abruptly found by Oren with no explanation. There's a dumbfounding lapse of continuity, suggesting Leah can turn white wine into red while telekinetically moving it from her right to her left. That said, art direction is well done, evoking a small town New England community that ranges from Oren's well appointed oversized white Colonial to the more cramped quarters of the Shangri-La. Leah's small but bright apartment contrasts with Oren's dark one (where Bed Bath & Beyond moving boxes are stacked everywhere), with outside porches leading to a lawn and dock, community space where discord morphs into harmony.
"And So It Goes" is a pleasant enough trifle, if a bit bumpy and cliched in execution. Douglas's freeing of walled emotions mix well with Keaton's maternal warmth and coltish sexiness.
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