Breaking Up

A badly-scripted, pretentious film.

Like a deliberate attempt at playing possum, this film lacks the very content that animates so-called comedies of its genre, that put aging film stars to the test, and take for granted that the audience is as brain dead as the half-witted people who agreed to sign on for the production in the first place.

Having happily transgressed the very line that separates slapdash crap from humour (be it intelligent or otherwise), this sorry fare is unhappily scripted, plastically enacted and deceivingly pretentious.

Porter Stoddard (Warren Beatty), a moneyed, up-town architect leads a seemingly tranquil life with Ellie (Diane Keaton) in their penthouse apartment replete with expensive art, a Mexican maid, two teenage kids and two very large dogs. The couple’s best friends Mona Miller (Goldie Hawn) and Griffin Miller (Garry Shandling) have had a fallout in their marriage of many years after Mona, tipped off by an anonymous friend, gets wind of a clandestine affair her husband’s having with a redhead. Peter, mired in his own affair with a young cellist, accompanies Mona to a country house (to help her get over the shock, or some such maloney), and spends an unpredicted night with her. The next thing you know, he’s accompanying Griffin to a lonely ranch in Sun Valley for some peace and quiet, but succeeds in stirring up a hornet’s nest with some drunken maneuvers with the local shop girl (Jenna Elfman). Another neophyte in this already absurd nonsense is Eugenie Claybourne (Andie MacDowell) who gets Peter to spend a night at her parents’ place, in her room full of scarily cute stuffed toys.

Ellie hears of Peter’s affair with the cellist (a very edgy Hawn sighs with obvious relief) and wants to call off their marriage. Sanity (or the other?) slowly sets in and Peter discovers priorities he’d abandoned earlier and sets about working on keeping an even tack, while the other oddities in the flick gradually detonate with the script.

If this review sounded tedious, it serves only as a teaser for the real deal. A shiny cast does nothing for a screenplay that is as fractured as it lacks direction. When people seem to land places as whimsically as they lead the sugar-spun lives they flaunt, it takes a good deal to digest the lot. Had there been a generous smattering of wit or even ribaldry, "Town And Country" would only pass off the counter. Unfortunately, a film that cannot even explain its prosaic title does even less in actual deliverance.

This article was first published on 01 Feb 2002.