It's easy to assume the worst of And So It Goes. It looks like every other generic "comedy" that's been hastily slapped together to appeal to a more mature audience - the kind of film in which, these days, respected veterans of the silver screen appear in order to finance their retirement. Heck, this isn't even the first time Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton have popped up in such "comedies": the former played an aging Lothario in Last Vegas, while Keaton kicked off the whole sub-genre in Something's Gotta Give, and most recently appeared in The Big Wedding. The good news is that And So It Goes somehow manages to work anyway. It's predictable and occasionally not funny at all, but when it settles into its groove, the weight of age and experience of the two lead characters contributes quite a bit to their inevitable romance.
Oren Little (Douglas) is a cynical, cantankerous old man who's never recovered from the death of his beloved wife many years ago. As a result, he's pushed almost everyone away, including his estranged, ex-junkie son Luke (Scott Shepherd). While trying to sell off his family home so he can retire in Canada, Oren moves into a lakeside apartment complex he owns. There, he meets Leah (Keaton), an aspiring lounge singer who can never get all the way through a song without bursting into tears at the thought of her own deceased husband. On his way to a stint in jail, Luke begs Oren to take care of his daughter Sarah (Sterling Jerins) - a task which Oren promptly palms off to Leah.
The plot, as you might imagine, marches on predictably from here: Oren and Leah, forced to spend more time together, begin to soften towards each other. He realises she's smart, spunky and a great cook; she sees that he's not just a grumpy, irascible ball of hatred. It's sometimes hard to take too seriously the way in which And So It Goes pulls off its so-called 'character development': can a casual bigot like Oren, who tosses off rather offensive remarks with little care for what others might think, really be trusted around other human beings? Much less deliver a baby, as he's called upon to do in one of the film's more surreal moments?
And yet, the film manages to find its own emotional groove anyway. The connection between Oren and Leah, both of whom have lost the first loves of their lives, is deep in a way other meet-cute romances aren't. You suspect that the reason they fall for each other is as much due to mutual attraction as to the fact that the other person loves so deeply and so truly.
Both actors lend the considerable weight of their experiences and personalities to their roles: Douglas gives Oren a great deal of charm, and makes his friendship with his old biddy of an assistant Claire (Frances Sternhagen) shine through the insults they casually trade. Keaton does what Keaton has always done, and does it very well. She glides through the film, as kooky as the day we first sat up and took notice of her in Annie Hall, and easily sings her tremulous way into Oren's heart - and the hearts of her audiences.
Not by any stretch of the imagination a great film, And So It Goes is nevertheless a mostly enjoyable watch. It won't be a highlight on the CVs of anyone involved: not for director Rob Reiner (who has a supporting role as Leah's hapless accompanist), and certainly not for Douglas and Keaton. But it won't be an abject embarrassment either. You might be hoping for a little more from cast and script and premise, but this is nevertheless a film that - for all its awkward fumbles - deals with the profound ideas of love, loss and second chances in a surprisingly effective way.