Screenplay is most basic weakness of ‘So It Goes’

By Gary Clift

“And So It Goes” is a modest little movie. It stars actors whose big box-office days are behind them, tells a familiar story intended to soothe older patrons, and doesn’t seem to have spent much money on sets, costumes, or screenplay writing.

  I suppose we might complain that Diane Keaton’s wardrobe from “Annie Hall” (men’s hats and all) seems odd here, but it was the scrimping on writing that had the worst effect on the new movie. The screenplay doesn’t prepare the audience for anything much here, and that is the film’s most basic weakness.

Keaton plays a lounge singer who has Sophie Tucker’s way of breaking into tears during performances. Michael Douglas plays a real estate man without any tact. She is a childless widow. He is a widower who wants to sell his large home for several million dollars and to then retire to a lake cottage.

Oren’s son, a former drug user, has been finagled into a plea deal by a prosecutor who is after his boss. So on his way to jail, Sonny drops his ten-year-old daughter off at the four-plex of aging apartments Oren lives in and owns. The girl has never met her grandfather.

Leah (Keaton) takes care of little Sarah. Also living in the building are a cop and his very pregnant wife.

Oren soon learns to enjoy the company of the girl. And he begins an odd, abrupt, physical romance with Leah, whose singing he enjoys. Eventually he will name himself her manager and will get her a fair-paying job in a club run by Frankie Valli of the Four Seasons.

Also appearing in minor parts are director Rob Reiner, son of Carl, as Leah’s toupee-wearing pianist, and Frances Sternhagen, who hasn’t lost any of her power through the years. She plays Oren’s long-time real-estate associate.

When he is left with little Sarah, Oren is also stuck with a stray dog he has already been trying to get away from the mansion he is trying to sell. The dog is around for a minute or two, then disappears. Then, without its having been mentioned, it is found out wandering on a roadway verge and is taken back to the four-plex. And that’s the last we see of it.

What the heck is going on with that dog?

Oren wants to find Sarah’s mother so he can leave the kid with her. So he makes a deal with his neighbor the policeman, a swap of a parking space at the apartments for info about the mother’s whereabouts.

But when they go to see the mother, she lives in a run-down building and faints on the lawn. For these reasons, Oren decides Sarah shouldn’t live with her, a decision that seems abrupt—I mean, the camera doesn’t even get inside Ma’s foyer before Oren is loading Leah and Sarah back into his car.

Later the policeman’s wife will give birth on Oren’s sofa while he is there. This gets him big credit with the neighbors. But it seemed to me like an odd and random addition to the story. What’s going on with that baby?

Oren finds Leah’s propensity for tears complicates their growing intimacy. He can only find ethnic minority members who are willing to look at his huge house. And he is finally sympathetic with his son when he learns that he may not have actually done anything wrong or even illegal.

What’s chances all these problems will be solved by the end of the film? But then there are other concerns. What does “Both Sides Now”—the movie’s theme song—have to do with the action? And what’s going on with that title?

Modest can be good. Modest can be maddening.

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