My tolerance for fluffy, girly romantic comedies is pretty average at best, it must be said, and I normally go out of my way to avoid anything that looks like its going to be a waste of my time to watch. My wife and I were sitting on the couch the other day, flicking through the TV channels and finding nothing on, when she suggested that we watch a movie. Okay, I thought to myself, how’s it going to play out this time? Normally it’s one of a selection of films including Love Actually, The Notebook, The Wedding Singer or Uncle Buck – all her favorite-watch-anytime films. This time, however, she skipped over the BluRay selection, past Eagle Eye (a film I want to watch again…) and Centurion, past Watchmen and even Kick-Ass, until she moved back down to her selection of DVD’s on the shelf. Paused for a moment, and then pulled out Because I Said So. Damn. It’s got f***ing Diane Keaton in it. Not my favorite actress, I have to say. I rolled my eyes, got a look like hot mud from the wife, and nodded my quiet assent to watching what I knew was going to be a disaster.
Because I Said So is not only a disaster, it’s an un-flushed toilet of a disaster. It’s an interminable exercise in comedy, and an unwatchable mess of a romance. Diane Keaton, only barely tolerable in that Sarah Jessica Parker flick The Family Stone, is an unmitigated horror in this, as the overbearing mother with pretensions of knowing what’s best for her daughters… and their love lives. Mandy Moore, who I’ve liked in everything else I’ve seen her in, has the unfortunate problem of starring in a film with a vacuum of intellect, alongside actresses trying to make their characters more lively than they are scripted to – it’s like trying to make a silk purse from a sows ear, and each of them fails utterly. What I struggled to make out, though, was whether that was a fault of the scripting, the direction, or the acting. Probably all three. In any case, the film has a major problem in that it lacks a soul.
The main issue I see with this film is that the script hasn’t any real charm. The characters don’t breathe on the screen, they just exist, like plastic mannequins come to life. Leads Keaton and Moore, both of whom have done better elsewhere, appear to be slumming it in this weedy, ill-defined semi-fantasy, as mother and daughter respectively. Keaton, as the Wilder matriarch, Daphne, has an issue with her youngest daughter Milly (Moore), who seems less interested in finding Mr Right as she does running her catering business. Daphne is worried Milly may end up like her – alone and lonely – and puts a personal ad into the paper to scout for suitable suitors. After a fairly rigorous meet-and-greet with potential future son-in-laws at a local hotel, she meets Jason (Everett Scott, slumming it…), a wealthy young man who himself is seeking Mrs Right. Hotel band leader Johnny (Macht) has been watching these events all day, approaches Daphne and offers himself up as a potential suitor, but Daphne’s overt prejudice sees him disregarded out of hand. Johnny doesn’t take no for an answer, and tracks Milly down, and the two start dating. Meanwhile, Jason also meets Milly and they start to date, which causes the normally passive Milly to suddenly find herself in a sticky situation – which of the two men does she want? The musician with a kid who lives with his father, but is a great guy, or the slightly snobby architect one who only wants Milly as yet another ornament for his collection? Of course, the best bit is when Milly finds out what her mother has been up to: and dumps both her suitors forthwith.
Honestly, the people who wrote this tripe need to be flagellated until they turn blue. Because I Said So has almost no redeeming social values whatsoever, and character development so minuscule it’s like a badly made sitcom pilot stretched to 90 minutes. None of the characters within the film grow or change, especially the stupid mother, which means by the time you get to the end of the film, all that arguing and emotional torment has been for nothing, because these people are so insipidly written they might as well be cardboard cutouts. Director Michael Lehmann, who gave us the delightful The Truth About Cats and Dogs, as well as 40 Days and 40 Nights, both of which had their good points, flails about here like a man so unconvinced with the material he can’t figure out whether to make this semi-serious, semi-comedic, or a flat out drama – and ends up making a hodgepodge of everything. The film doesn’t start well, it doesn’t end well, and the stuff in the middle could adequately be described as wank. There’s nothing to this film at all, no substance of any kind, and with acting performances like Keaton’s threatening to turn this into some sort of farce (which Hollywood doesn’t do well), the movie drags and drags and drags itself along by the barest entertainment margins. Lehmann can’t bring any humor in this rancid script, nor can he generate any audience attachment for the most empathetic character of Milly – Mandy Moore is acting in a different film than what she thought: it’s trying to be an adult contemporary comedy, but the ideas the film espouses are so far-fetched it beggars belief. Not even the Farrelly Brothers could make this crap any better. The editing and choice of camera angles is flat, uninspired and only just passable for a made-for-TV telemovie.