Monty Wildhorn, an alcoholic novelist of Westerns, has lost his drive. His nephew pushes him to summer in quiet Belle Isle. He begrudgingly befriends a newly single mom and her 3 girls who help him find the inspiration to write again.
Oren Little has turned his back on all his neighbors and shunned the notion of being kind to others after the death of his wife. Next door neighbor Leah has put her soul, and her tears, into her stagnant singing career after the death of her husband. But then Oren's son shows up needing Oren to take care of his daughter Sarah. Oren has no patience for children, Leah never had any of her own, but 9-year-old Sarah just might be the spark that allows these two lonely souls to turn their home into a Little Shangri-La.Written by
"In every heart there is a room/A sanctuary safe and strong/To heal the wounds from lovers past/Until a new one comes along." Billy Joel
Respectfully depicting romance with sixty something's is as challenging as getting someone other than Jack Nicholson to play the male lead. Director Rob Reiner in An So It Goes has achieved the near impossible by having Michael Douglas do better than Jack by underplaying a crusty but ultimately dear real estate agent, Oren Little, a widower selling his own 8 million dollar home somewhere in Fairfield, Connecticut.
With Diane Keaton for the love interest singing in a lounge (Frankie Valli plays the owner!) a sweet range of Rodgers & Hart, Irving Berlin, and Jimmy van Huesen tunes, Reiner has two Oscar-winning performers who mostly underplay the attraction that takes them out of the clichéd situation of "hate then love" into a more reasonable slow growth to affection. Writer Mark Andrus, who knows of these matters from writing As Good as It Gets, in which Jack gets his reality check also from Keaton, offers subplots without the usual screaming and insults. However, make no mistake, the plot is as predictable as it gets.
Oren inherits his hitherto unknown granddaughter, Sarah (Sterling Jerins), from a prison-bound ex-junkie son, Luke (Scott Shepherd). Neighbor Leah (Keaton), finding in Sarah the granddaughter she never had, sometimes seems to question that she could have feelings for such a meathead as Oren. When Oren accurately reflects me at my most clueless, I temper my criticism of clichés.
Because Douglas himself has had major challenges with his son, Cameron--a drug addict still doing time--authenticity pours out of Douglas, who gives a believable performance as the conflicted father/grandfather. In real life Douglas called himself a "bad father," so I award him points for honesty then and courage for his depiction now.
Although I would have preferred more depth in Oren's relationship with Luke, Andrus and Reiner go enough into Oren's growing love for Sarah and his appreciation for Leah. With no new story creativity, the seasoned actors make the plot combinations reasonable. Even the minor characters defy their stereotypes, headed by Frances Sternhagen as Oren's real-estate partner with a penchant for cigarettes and sardonic repartee with Oren. Hints of the screwball comedy! She's that good.
Reiner should be applauded for toning down the bad jokes usually accompanying Social-Security-eligible lovers. However, I don't believe Douglas would forsake Catherine Zeta-Jones for Keaton. That's the reality we know. And so it goes.
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