It is a sad fact, but it has to be said—if it wasn’t said already: as a director, Rob Reiner’s glory days are behind him now.
A director who, at one point in time, had an astounding track record that included hits like This is Spinal Tap, Stand By Me, The Princess Bride and Misery, just to name a few, Reiner proved himself a multi-facade filmmaker who not only could push a button, but was always able to expand his talents to a variety of genres and stories.
Not any more, however. Although his appearance in last year’s The Wolf of Wall Street proved he can still be a dynamic on-screen presence, his films behind the camera seem to get lazier and lazier with each passing year. Even with The Bucket List being an unexpected box office hit, his films—including that one—can’t escape a certain level of passable mediocrity.
More specifically, the type of films meant for the older, less demanding crowd—which Reiner is a part of now—and that don’t wish to offend or provoke anyone, except for maybe a harsh line or two here and there. Despite being aided by lovely talents like Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton this time around, Reiner’s latest picture And So It Goes is no different, unfortunately.
Reiner’s latest centers on a bitter widow realtor, Oren Little (Douglas), who is left in the custody of his 10-year-old granddaughter Sarah when her father and Oren’s son Luke (Scott Shepherd) goes to jail. As one would expect, Oren goes from typically sarcastic grouch to loving old man through the help of Sarah and his neighbor/fellow widow—you can fill in the dots—Leah (Keaton). It does nothing out-of-the-box or different, and that, unfortunately, is by design.
And So It Goes is basically the filmmaking equivalent of Meals-on-Wheels. It is catered to audience that likes their movies (meals) simple, familiar and plain. They are not at a point in their lives where they want anything that shakes them up; they just like to know what they are getting and get that in nice, small and warm doses. Which isn’t necessarily wrong (for them), but there is no denying that it makes for an extremely banal film-going experience.
But it does make a shame seeing Douglas. Who, despite his health scares over the past couple years, is just as scene stealing as he was in his earlier years. A lot like his performance in his last movie Last Vegas, however, despite Douglas being more than game to give his performance his all, he is surrounded by a crew and a cast that all seem to just want to take a giant nap.
He also recently made Behind the Candelabra, so not all his recent movies are failures. But one can only hope that not every movie he makes from now on are as bland and forgettable as Last Vegas and And So It Goes. For God only knows how many years we have left seeing him working his magic.
Also, while Keaton tries her best, her performance only seems to parade her worst qualities as an actress. All her character is given to do is scream and cry and complain, which—at least for me—doesn’t make for a particularly fun person to watch on screen.
She is the least likable lead, and that is saying something. Particularly since Douglas is not even really meant to be all that likable to begin with. In fact, he has a scene in the first five minutes where he shoots a dog in the ass with a paintball gun. Yet, you would gladly root for him more.
There are things to enjoy inside And So It Goes. As Oren’s sassy co-worker Claire, Frances Sternhagen—returning with her Misery director—typically steals each and every scene she is in. Which is not an easy task, considering that he typically stars in scenes with Oscar winners. Additionally, perhaps inspired by his time on Wolf, Reiner steps in front of the camera a couple times in this movie and continues to play a good comedic foil.
But, alas, little upbeat moments like this are not what make a movie good. What is needed to make a movie excel are interesting lead characters, conflicts that are relatable, realistic and/or unpredictable, or just a funny, likable script. But this movie doesn’t carry any of these traits. It just seems content on dragging its feet in the dirt until the movie ends, the audience wakes up from their naps and goes home talking about how that was a “nice” movie.
At times, there is an underlying charm to And So It Goes that makes the film standable enough in its smaller, lower key moments. Even at his older age, Reiner can still make coast-able charm from time to time. But these select sections of the movie are too far-and-few between to make the movie worth the endeavor. One can only hope that, if Reiner does decide to make more movies after this, that he gains some more inspiration.
Because, much like Clint Eastwood, Reiner seems to directing movies just to make movies these days. Each one just as forgettable as their title, and mudding up his one-time brilliant track record with some of the most plain and lifeless movies you’ll see this side of the nursing home.
Image courtesy of ACE/INFphoto.com