Friday, December 29, 2006

Why Something's Gotta Give Is A Piece Of Shit

A friend of mine just reminded me about what is likely my least favorite film of all-time: Nancy Meyers' insulting, stereotype-laden and (worst of all) internally-inconsistent Something's Gotta Give.

What a piece of shit.  It's been a couple years, but its taste is still rancid on my tongue, as if recalling a mouthful of month-old compost (without leaves).  Rarely is a movie about relationships so eye-bleedingly implausible and imbecilic.  I never hate movies as much as I hate this one.  It takes a special film to make me react this violently, and it earns every F-bomb I hurl its way.

Why, you ask?

  1. The failed aspirations.  It tries to be a tale of fuck-ups finding each other (a la As Good As It Gets), focusing on the woeful tale of the middle-aged, unmarried female.  It fails so spectacularly to say anything, other than "it sucks to be middle-aged," and even that came across loud and clear without me having to sit through 2+ hours of crap.
  2. Entirely implausible characters.  Your romantic leads are a music executive and a writer.  Your objects of desire are a young doctor who's into older men, and a young woman so disposable that I can't even remember what her deal is.  Who cares?!?  They can all go fuck themselves.
  3. The writer/director's utter contempt for the male gender.  This is obvious to anyone within the first thirty seconds of film, and the rest of the film shows little in the way of sympathy towards any of her male characters except for Keanu Reeves' doctor, who is so vapid in his lust for Diane Keaton that to reward his character with virtue is an insult to anyone who scores higher than 12 on an IQ test.
  4. The judgmental, condescending gender lecture.  Listen, lady... Keaton is the biggest schmuck in your movie, and you chose her to be your voice of reason?  She fucked herself up, and fucked Jack Nicholson over for no good reason.  She is unqualified to teach me how to sort my fucking sock drawer, let alone the vagaries of mature relationships.  I will not accept any film with such a nudnik as its emotional center.
  5. The ending.  One of the worst, most asinine endings in the history of Hollywood endings.  The situation arises stupidly, extends itself even more stupidly, and resolves itself in the most fantastically implausible manner that it renders the entire film a total fucking waste of everyone's time.  Why bother with two hours of Nicholson's character being stubborn if you're gonna have him miraculously learn all his lessons over the span of a minute and a half?  Need I even mention that Keaton's character didn't learn ANYTHING in the process?  Oh, I forgot, she's a woman, so she's perfect, and God forbid I say otherwise.
  6. Worst of all, the fact that it masquerades as an incisive dramedy, deigning to speak to real-world issues, when in fact it's nothing more than a scattered, imbalanced smorgasbord of mean-spirited complaints about men.

But despite my best efforts to deny it any educational success whatsoever, Something's Gotta Give did teach me what it's like for women to watch male-oriented films.  It would be very easy for me to reach that conclusion based on surface elements, such as the contempt, the condescension, and the schoolmarm tone towards all men.  But I actually believe this to be true based on a clever trick in its story structure: it follows the rules of a guy movie, but with the gender roles reversed.

  1. It's the women who are forgiven for all their flaws, foibles, and generally idiotic behavior (Keaton).
  2. It's the men who are one-dimensional, unpredictable and inconsistent in their characters (Nicholson), if they're so lucky to have more character than a piece of ass (Keanu).
  3. The man is judged to be at fault when the third-act conflict is resolved.  The man comes to the woman in the end, not the other way around. 

What's more is that women don't even notice.  It's the reverse of what women must think while watching the romantic arc of your average guy movie (Dodgeball, Super Troopers) unfold.  Kate and her friend, with whom I watched this piece of shit, just thought it was another innocuous, cheesy girl movie.  They saw none of the condescension and such that I'd just endured.  Same movie, totally different reactions.  Of course, when Kate and another friend reacted violently to Sideways' depiction of jerkiness-as-male-bonding, it was the same story in reverse... they were livid, and I thought "huh?"

So I've decided, after some thought, and in spite of some very basic story/character problems in the screenplay, that the film at least makes a point.  Too bad that the point is made in the same manner as a dog owner correcting his/her dog's piss-puddle in the living room... rubbing our noses in it.  It says something about the quality of the filmmaker as a person, and goes a long way towards explaining why the movie as a whole is such a failure.  Anyone who's watched Michael Moore over the past three years can tell you that being completely fucking wrong in the opposite direction is not the solution to the world's problems, just as Something's Gotta Give does nothing for gender equity.

1 comment:

  1. We watched "The Piano Teacher" over the weekend, and reading your post I think you might find it a breath of fresh air. Isabelle Huppert plays a sick, twisted, and unhappy sociopath of a conservatory professor. She tends to scar her intimates for life .

    But contra Something's Gotta Give, the portrayal is done without recourse to gender stereotypes, Huppert's character is not redeemed just because she's a woman, and the male lead -- while gifted with some recognizably masculine flaws -- develops in reaction to her unraveling in a rather unique (and not stereotypically predictable) fashion.

    The moral? Broken people can't always be fixed by finding the love they always imagined they wanted. In fact, they tend to further corrupt and debase each other. And it has nothing to do with gender.