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Because I Said So (1/10)

by Tony Medley

The first hour of this gruesome chick flick is as bad as any I’ve been forced to endure. Not only did I once again have to sit through Diane Keaton’s chronic chewing the scenery, the banal lines she was forced to utter were enough to send me running to the vomitorium. I liked Keaton when she was starting out in The Godfather trilogy as Michael Corleone’s wife. Not overacting, she gave very workmanlike performances. Then she met Woody Allen who introduced her to “la-di-da” and she was never again watchable (except for Godfather III, 1990) for me.

Daphne (Keaton) has three daughters, Milly (Mandy Moore), Maggie (Lauren Graham, who does her best with the weak material), and Mae (Piper Pierabo). Maggie and Mae are married (dump the alliteration, for God’s sake!). All three want Milly to finally corral a guy. Maggie and Mae want her to do it on her own, but almost-60-year-old Daphne wants to control Milly’s life and find the guy Daphne thinks would be right for Milly.

Daphne puts an ad on the internet and starts interviewing prospective guys. She comes up with Jason (Tom Everett Scott) and rejects Johnny (Gabriel Macht, in a good turn), the guitar player in the bar where she’s conducting the interviews, who comes over to her and shows he’s a real nice guy. The rest of the film is Milly dating each and choosing between them, all the while prodded on how to act by Daphne.

This film about a suffocating mother who can’t let go (the title is what Daphne always gives as a reason why she thinks Milly should do what she suggests) is the kind that gives chick flicks a bad name. They talk about sex and stuff frankly. In fact they talk about it so frankly it is hardly credible. But when have you ever seen a chick flick that was credible (except for In Her Shoes)? They all have dialogue (here it’s by Karen Leigh Hopkins and Jessie Nelson) that is intended as shockingly funny because of its frankness, but is just juvenile.

As far as acting goes, the vibrant Moore is to the creaking Keaton as Tiger Woods is to today’s 67-year-old Jack Nicklaus. The weakest part of the film, however, is when Moore is forced to try to describe how an orgasm feels (to her mother who says she’s never had one), and it’s a pale ripoff of When Harry Met Sally, and not funny at all, made even worse by Keaton’s reaction, straining for humor.

I liked Moore when I first saw her in Chasing Liberty (2004), which was a charming romantic comedy that came and went in a trice. She also sang Doris Day’s 1950’s hit, Secret Love, on the Mona Lisa Smile (2002) sound track and topped Doris, which is a hard thing to do. To digress, the sound track CD for Mona Lisa Smile is one of the best CD’s of the century, featuring modern singers like Moore singing classic songs, using the exact arrangements used on the originals. It is terrific!

But enough of that. Moore does a lot with this meager script. She is beautiful and a talented actress. Michael Lehmann directs, and there’s not much positive I can say about his work, but he was starting out with at least two strikes against him, Keaton and the script.

The best part of the film is the music; lots and lots of good songs, alas mostly as background. But the story is so trite and the script so cliché-ridden that it’s a relief to ignore them and concentrate on the music. Lehmann would have been well-advised to sublimate the flimsy story to the strong music instead of vice versa.

The low quality of the film is exacerbated by a puerile, crude ending that mocks the idea that anybody 60-years-of-age might be capable of having, and enjoying, sex. This silly ending is consistent with the low moral tone of the entire movie (not to mention its intellectual level). Being a chick flick, maybe women will like this, although I don’t see how. Why would a woman like a movie that insults her gender? A man shouldn’t be seen within 100 yards of it.

January 29, 2007