And So It Goes
For an example of cinema-as-lifestyle-porn, see Rob Reiner's latest movie, "And So It Goes." Shot in some of the luxury real estate spread throughout Connecticut, it's the type of film that moves at a leisurely pace, hits the beats that audiences expect it to hit, and never hesitates to pan across a particularly fancy piece of furniture.
It's got a plot to match the materialism: This is another rich-old-straight-white-curmudgeon-finds-his-soul movie, with Michael Douglas playing the typical bitter-old-widowered-office-drone. The film itself is nothing insidious. You get the feeling that it's tone-deaf depictions of race and class differences (we'll get to that) are accidental. They're just one of the side effects of this movie being beamed to us directly from the one percent.
At least Douglas fits the part well. Early on, we see his character Oren Little (a real estate agent) heading up a hill to visit his late wife's gravestone. Sweat marks be damned, Douglas is dressed to the nines for the scene, as if he had two call girls waiting back in the car while he paid his respects. (He doesn't.) Who could pull that off but him? He's got a playboy's charisma that, at this point, seems to be ageless. When he's working to seduce someone -- which he spends the whole film here doing to Diane Keaton's character -- it feels like an inevitability. He remains so attractive that he completely transcends the skeevy-old-man archetypes of many of the characters he plays, making a lot of films (a lot of '90s erotic thrillers, mainly) a hell of a lot more complex than they should have been. He doesn't make "And So It Goes" complex, of course -- but he does make it occasionally fun.
The movie needs the help. The script, by Mark Andrus, clearly never met an editor that didn't love a cheesy line, nor one that didn't hold at least some contempt for people with bank account balances of five figures or below. When Oren's former-addict son, sentenced to prison time, drops his daughter on Douglas' steps, he explains that the girl's mother was a fellow junkie. "Heroin's an ugly drug," he says, "but it got me a beautiful girl." Later on they go to see the mother, who's made up with acne and track marks so extensive that she's one step away from a horror villain. Oren takes the girl away immediately, and the older woman's plight is never referenced again.
In fact, the only sharp comedic notes revolve around racism itself. There's a great gag revolving around Douglas swapping out the photos in the home he's trying to sell so that they match the ethnicity of whoever the next potential buyers are. He learns he's showing the house one day, for instance, and he asks his partner, "Where are they from?" His right-hand man answers dryly, "Black." The movie can't follow this strand, though. In the third act we get an embarrassing scene where a non-white couple, berated endlessly by Oren, invite him into their home with open arms. It feels written and added after the fact -- the type of scene a studio executive would write after seeing test screening responses that suggest that Oren didn't do enough to make amends. Reiner acts in the movie too; at one point he takes an old-school pratfall, feet over head. The movie stumbles a lot, too.
Yet there's an old-school craftsmanship here, externalized somewhat by Douglas' old-pro playboyism performance, that makes the tougher scenes worth swallowing. You don't get the feeling that the actors are embarrassed to be here (a feeling that you will get if you go to see "Sex Tape" instead). There's one scene of Douglas torn between walking through Keaton's door to say hello (she's been annoying him) or hanging out alone on her porch, rudely stealing bites from her pasta dinner. Reiner shoots it in one-take long shot, watching Douglas err from left-to-right, forever undecided, forever pleasure-seeking. It's a laughable image, and he holds it just long enough to make it absurd. That shot isn't quite Jerry Lewis, but it's not that far off either.
Maybe the only thing these filmmakers and actors were interested in here was going to a pretty destination and getting to do some work parading their lifestyle around on camera for a few weeks. But at least the work they've done in the process is half-decent.