Erica Barry (Diane Keaton) is a successful playwright who has retreated to her beach house to work on her new play. Unaware that her mom is there, Erica’s daughter Marin (Amanda Peet) brings her wealthy, much older boyfriend Harry (Jack Nicholson) to the beach house for a weekend of “fun”. This instantly creates an awkward environment until Erica’s sister Zoe (a sorely underused Frances McDormand) suggests they all stay at the beach house that weekend and just stay out of each other’s way. Erica has an instant dislike towards Harry, due to his reputation for solely dating younger women, including her daughter. They have a few prickly moments until Harry suffers a heart attack. This leads a local doctor, Julian Mercer (Keanu Reeves), to tell Harry he needs to rest and cannot travel for a while until his condition improves. Despite initially protesting, Erica finally agrees to let Harry stay in the beach house so he is close to the hospital. Since she has a life to get back to, Marin leaves Harry with her mother to return to her job in the city.
I am a big fan of Nancy Meyers. The Holiday and Father of the Bride are two of my favorite movies. Not only are her films well written and romantic (most of them!) but they’re all gorgeous to look at. I will never own a beach house like the one Diane Keaton owns in Something’s Gotta Give, but boy I wish I could. That being said, I was really thrilled that Meyers wrote and directed a romantic comedy with two older actors in the leads, and how could anyone go wrong with Jack and Diane? The two share undeniable chemistry that we first got a glimpse of when they co-starred together in Reds (1981). Diane shines as Erica, a divorcée who seems content with being single but is then so open and accepting to the love she feels for Harry that it’s absolutely heartbreaking. Jack is… well, Jack! Intelligent, biting and a bit arrogant, but still able to handle the emotional scenes with such vulnerability that you almost forget that it’s Jack Nicholson.
While Harry is a bachelor who does not believe in monogamy or dating women of a ‘certain age’, it’s a younger man who plays his rival in winning over Erica. His doctor Julian is a big fan of Erica’s work and he is instantly smitten with her when they meet in the hospital after Harry’s heart attack. Julian is handsome, kind and sweet and Erica is flattered by his attraction to her. But it’s very clear she is drawn to Harry, and the two fall into a week-long love affair that leaves both heartbroken when it is over, even if Erica is the only one to fully, and visibly, acknowledge her pain. I truly believe the montage of Erica sobbing as she works on her play is one of the funniest rom-com sequences I’ve ever seen, and it never fails to make me laugh with how melodramatic she is, but honestly, haven’t we all been there at some time or another?
Julian does not turn into a jerk, or express some fatal personality flaw that makes you say “Yes, she should be with Harry!” and after Harry’s journey of self-discovery and growth, it’s clear that he’s worthy of Erica’s love as well. The love triangle, if we can call it that, is so well written that I honestly wouldn’t have minded a different outcome. Something’s Gotta Give is funny and charming and maybe it doesn’t stray too far from the rom-com formula, but the performances from Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton make it one of the better romantic comedies (and movies in general) of the 2000s.