Cheaper by the Dozen

Starring Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Keanu Reeves. Written and directed by Nancy Meyers.
Running Time: 117 mins
Rated: MA 15+

In recent years the cinema has stayed away from, what should I call it?, mature age love. A few years ago Australia's Paul Cox dealt with it in a serious way in "Innocence", but, generally, sexual attraction and love among those over 50 rarely makes it as a central feature on the big screen.

Maybe that's why writer and director Nancy Meyers always had Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton in mind to star in her film. If the studio bosses didn't think much of the story, how could they deny anything with these two in it. And so while she was at it, Meyers threw in Keanu Reeves and Oscar winner Frances McDormand for good measure.

Harry Sanborn (Nicholson) is a sad and ageing Lothario. Never married, he only dates women under the age of thirty. His latest girlfriend is Marin Barry (Amanda Peet). She takes him to her mother's beachside mansion for the weekend where Erica Barry (Keaton) on seeing him for the first time, takes him for a burglar. It's hard to work out whether the shock is less when she discovers he is Marin's boyfriend. At dinner that night Harry has a heart attack and his doctor, Julian Mercer (Reeves) orders complete bed rest for him at Erica's house. They fall in love, but not before Dr Mercer begins to woo the much older Erica.

There are many admirable aspects to this film, but its morality is clearly not one of them. Whatever of the importance of the issues it explores in regard to older people pursuing romance and love, the nudity and sex scene in the film will offend some viewers.

Meyers gives Keaton and Nicholson full reign and some excellent writing to play with. They do not disappoint. The only distracting feature in the direction is Meyer's heavy reliance on filters in all of Keaton's close ups which overly soften her expressive face. It visually undermines the story as well and suggests a woman of a certain age needs a little help to look her best. Nicholson gets no such treatment.

Something's Gotta Give is a touch too long, and plays it twee when it moves to Paris, but it is provides an engaging enough romantic comedy within which two great actors strut their stuff.

Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the Director of the he Australian Catholic Film Office.

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