There are a million reasons not to like realtor Oren Little (Michael Douglas), and that's just the way he likes it. Wilfully obnoxious to anyone who might cross his path, he wants nothing more than to sell one last house and retire in peace and quiet - until his estranged son suddenly drops off a granddaughter (Sterling Jerins) he never knew existed and turns his life upside-down. Clueless about how to care for a sweet, abandoned nine-year-old, he pawns her off on his determined and lovable neighbour Leah (Diane Keaton) and tries to resume his life uninterrupted. But little by little, Oren stubbornly learns to open his heart - to his family, to Leah, and to life itself.
Every few years we get one of these elderly romantic comedies. Two individuals in the twilight of their lives find themselves shyly attracted to one another. It’s a format that has been repeated for such pairings as Nicholson/Keaton (Something’s Gotta Give) and Baldwin/Streep (It’s Complicated). Now we have veteran actors Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton going at it as two 60-year-olds finding romance they didn’t know they wanted. Much like the aforementioned films, And So It Goes is of similar structure and design (even the color palette is the same). It’s built more as a regular ointment than a film. Feeling as if the current movie landscape doesn’t cater enough to the 50+ demographic? Crack open this familiar scenario and spread its charm on your brain. No need to vigorously rub it in as it will dissipate quickly.
Still, I’ve got to give some credit for the two A-listers trying their best with a mostly stock script. Douglas as the cynical Oren injects his usual brand of crass to a bitter old retail salesman who grins at misfortune and glares at loud happiness. He grows irritated with a stray dog that wanders onto the property, but delights in shooting him with a paintball gun. He’s a ruthlessly cruel and racist figure to his ever-chipper tenants of the beautiful four unit space he owns. But most people can spot that there is some shred of kindness in his heart that was damaged by the loss of his wife to cancer. Diane Keaton’s Leah is his neighbor of opposite traits. She wants to be a lounge singer, but is an emotional wreck on stage.
The softy and the curmudgeon need each other, but still need something to throw them together. That something comes in the form of Oren’s granddaughter, now saddled with her grandpa while her dad goes to prison. Unsure of how to deal with a shy little girl in his current lifestyle, he dumps her off on Leah who forms an immediate bond with the little girl. They immediately start hitting it off with having dinner together, sleeping in the same room and studying the birth of a butterfly.
The cute kid, who doesn’t seem as frazzled or contemplative of her dad going to prison, warms the hearts of Oren and Leah far too easily. It doesn’t take much to wear down Oren in particular when he meets her drug-addicted mother and decides against dropping her off at such a scummy place. He doesn’t like television, but takes a liking to the girl’s interest in Duck Dynasty. He doesn’t like painting rooms vivid colors, but still decorates the girl’s room with a light purple.
Through his granddaughter, Oren begins to make his way into Leah’s good graces that the two can finally pursue a romantic relationship as scared as they are. Most of the time they bicker and squabble about appropriate behavior and making the wrong moves. There are several moments where they argue right in front of the little girl who doesn’t seem at all concerned with what either of them are saying. She’s only there as the cute kid mascot much like the other characters who only exist for a handful of bits. There is a black detective who exists for Oren to display his racism. There is a pair of twin boys who constantly make animal noises to display Oren’s hatred of children. And there’s even a pregnant lady which you can set your watch to for the moment she gives birth with Oren being the only other adult present when her water breaks.
Director Rob Reiner has put up his feet for this effort that is easy and by the numbers. It’s a relaxing stroll through a very light and charming romance that buds exactly the way you’d expect. No surprises, no twists and no unique character development is pursued. Every aspect of the script is kept quirky and loose to allow for some shmaltzy family drama, old-fashioned romance and simple comedy such as dogs humping stuffed animals. Reiner could’ve found some more telling humor to better tap into the mindset of fearful Baby Boomers finding love at their age, but that would be too much work. Maybe Reiner just wants to take it slow with a film in which he appears as a supporting character accidentally slipping down a Slip N’ Slide. It’s mindless fun, but it still looks like fun (at least for Reiner).
And So It Goes is about as casual as its title. It hits all the expected notes, perfected as light entertainment for the empty-nesters who want to relax with a breezy romantic comedy. This is that one rainy day film you can always count on for delivering on the artificially expected laughs and smiles. I can’t exactly fault the film in that regard as it will play well for its intended audience. It just won’t be a very memorable experience, sure to be lost in the dozen other middle-aged romantic comedies. I would not be surprised if somebody mentions this film and confuses its plot by asking “wasn’t that the one with Jack Nicholson?”.