Making the Grades
The grey hairs of Hollywood come out in abundance in this romantic drama in which Michael Douglas plays Oren Little, a cranky, washed up real estate agent who sits on the front porch of his fourplex guzzling martinis while yelling at the neighbors. And just to make sure we know he’s a real curmudgeon, he hates dogs and kids too.
Meanwhile Leah (Diane Keaton), his tenant living next door is, a charming lounge singer with a great voice—if she could only get through one of her ballads without breaking into tears. Leah has a history and her landlord doesn’t want to hear about it.
Oren is obsessed with selling one last house before retirement. It’s an overpriced mansion he’s not willing to let go for a penny under the list price. But his focus is interrupted when a face from the past suddenly reappears in his life. Kyle (Austin Lysy) is Oren’s estranged son. As a teen he got into the wrong crowd and was caught up in a net of substance abuse. Now, after turning his life around, he’s been convicted on trumped up charges of embezzlement and needs to spend a few months behind bars. Desperate, the young man shows up with Sarah (Sterling Jerins), his ten-year-old daughter in tow. Unaware he even was a grandfather, Oren is less than enthusiastic when Kyle asks him to watch the girl while he serves his time. It isn’t until neighborly curiosity gets Leah involved in the situation that a warmer welcome is extended.
It’s highly unlikely you’ll have kids clamoring to see Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton, even though their lengthy careers have made them movie greats. Nor will kids likely be interested in watching retirement-aged characters impulsively rediscovering intimacy after an evening’s conversation (the scene cuts early and we see them in bed afterward). Yet even adults familiar with these actors will be disappointed by the screenplay’s unfortunate inclusion of crass humor and sexual remarks. The script is also peppered with a moderate amount of scatological profanity, religious expletives and crude anatomical terms, and an elderly character frequently seen smoking. As well, alcohol use is frequent, with inebriation depicted on occasion.
Can a cute little girl and a lovely lady melt the heart of a grumpy, old codger? Well let’s just say I wasn’t too surprised with the sentimental ending. However getting there will require Oren to experience positive character development on a massive scale and it begins with his acceptance of his responsibilities as a grandparent and a father. The implied timeframe of a couple of months certainly is a stretch, and the angelic Leah and Sarah are almost too perfect for the job—although Keaton and Jerins’ performances certainly help to convince us that anything is possible. Perhaps the biggest leap of faith we are asked to accept is the notion that a reformed Oren is a better choice for Leah than her adoring piano accompanist (played by director Rob Reiner). Although real life experience might suggests otherwise, the plot keeps believing… and so it goes.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about And So It Goes.
How does the untimely death of a loved one affect the way a person views the world? What are some strategies for overcoming this sorrow? How can we tell when grieving moves past being productive and becomes disabling? This page on Oprah.com has some useful tips and thoughts on this difficult process.
Prior to her romantic involvement, how do Leah and Orin’s other neighbors show support and compassion toward Sarah and her difficult grandfather? What can we do in our neighborhoods to care and support others?