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Town and Country  

Warren Beatty...............Porter Stoddard
Diane Keaton................Ellie Stoddard
Goldie Hawn.................Mona
Garry Shandling.............Griffin
Andie MacDowell.............Eugena
Jenna Elfman................Auburn
Nastassja Kinski............Cellist

Directed by: Peter Chelsom

Written by: Michael Laughlin and Buck Henry

Rated R for sexuality and language

Buy a Town and Country poster
Buy a Town and Country poster !

"Town and Country" is a romantic comedy that goes through the appropriate motions, yet doesn't know why. It's not a total disaster, nor does it insult the intelligence. In fact, the central flaw is even somewhat endearing ... like that family who goes on vacation and realizes only when it's too late that they forgot something important. "I can't help but think we overlooked something. Oh my God, that's it! We forgot to make the movie about something!"

The film has been widely described as venturing into Woody Allen territory, although it lacks his trademark introspection and insatiable desire for trying to understand the most unusual of humanistic quirks. "Town and Country" goes through the motions, and they're the right motions, but without a narrative form, shape, goal, or direction, the movie can't help but fall apart at about the midpoint.

The story does start off well. We see Porter Stoddard (Warren Beatty) sitting up in bed. Across the room is a young musician (Nastassja Kinski), completely nude, summoning a dulcet melody from the cello comfortably embraced between her thighs. Then we hear Porter's voiced narration: "Let me first say that this isn't my wife ... I'm not sure how I found myself in this situation." My attention was caught, and I was ready to witness a series of comic events that led up to the scene I was watching, in addition to learning more about the nature of a man like Porter Stoddard. But immediately afterward, the narration stopped; and with it went the movie's vertebrae. No more possible insight, no more humorous observations of his life's current state, just a loose string of comic touches that will inevitably run its course before the story's conclusion. There is one last line of narration at the end, but to no avail. I felt like the filmmakers had call-waiting and I spent ninety-eight minutes of the movie's one hundred minute running time on hold.

Stoddard is a successful New York architect who is living a happy life on the outside but going through a kind of mid-life crisis on the inside. When he learns that his best friend (Gary Shandling) is cheating on his wife (Goldie Hawn), he makes every effort to keep his own marriage in order. But through a series of comic missteps, Porter finds himself in the bed of another. Soon his wife (Diane Keaton) learns of the affair, and in an effort to discover some sort of meaning to their disintegrating lives, the two men escape to a quiet retreat. Along the way, they meet a varied array of unusual women, including Auburn (Jenna Elfman) the plucky owner of a bait and tackle shop; and jet-setting heiress Eugenie (Andie MacDowell) who has been born from distinctively daffy parents (Charlton Heston and Marian Seldes).

Bad buzz has been circling the production in true Hollywood vulture-like fashion. It was reported that the film took three years to make and cost an estimated eighty-five million dollars. The studio was so concerned about a critical lambasting that no screenings were held for reviewers. Although with all the bad press, the studio did cleverly release the film one week after the dreadful unleashing of Tom Green's "Freddy Got Fingered". They got that right. But "Town and Country" isn't the nightmare many thought it would be. It just doesn't possess a need to really be about something. All those involved in the production will survive it ... and hopefully learn from it as well.

Copyright 2001 Michael Brendan McLarney

Critically Ill

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