Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Media Watch: Comedy and tragedy at the movies: ‘Something’s Gotta Give,’ ‘House of Sand and Fog’

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the Jan. 15, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)

If you are looking for a hugely enjoyable romantic comedy for the New Year, the new Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton film Something’s Gotta Give is just the ticket.

Nancy Meyers has written and directed a story that attempts to shatter the stereotype of the male in his 50s and 60s dating women under 30.

Harry Sanborn (Nicholson) is a playboy successful in all material ways. He is the founder of hot hip-hop record company. One weekend he is invited by his latest friend under 30, Marin (Amanda Peet), to her mother’s beautiful Long Island home. Mom is away for the weekend. She and Harry will have the beach house to themselves.

Early on it turns out Mom, who is the famous playwright Erica Barry (Keaton), has changed her plans and has invited her sister (played by Frances McDormand) to spend the same weekend at her beautiful home. The two mature women happen upon Harry behind the refrigerator door and call 911. Thus begins the human situation that leads to the continual sparing between two great actors that makes up this very entertaining movie. You can’t help but enjoy Nicholson and Keaton going after each other in the tradition of Tracy and Hepburn.

Harry has a mild heart attack as the weekend begins. For some reason he is not sick enough to stay in the hospital but cannot go back to his home in New York City. Thus he ends up at Erica’s home for recovery. Marin, his young infatuation, has to immediately return to the City. Harry fires the home nurse immediately. Thus Erica and Harry end up alone in her home while he slowly recuperates. This makes for one enjoyable set-up after another. Slowly the tables turn from animosity to interest in each other and eventually what Erica believes is love.

There is a delightful subplot where Harry’s doctor (Keanu Reeves), who has to keep coming to see his patient at Erica’s, finds himself attracted to the mature Erica. So the tables are turned as the 30-something doctor asks Erica out on a date. Erica hasn’t had this much romantic attention from men in years. She finds herself opening up in ways she is surprised she can.

Obviously there is a conflict between the two men and the very interesting woman in her 50s. There is also a conflict over Erica loving Harry while he is pulled to go back to his old ways of quick flings with young disposable women. In the midst of lots of very funny situations and lines, Something’s Gotta Give does raise some pretty significant issues about 21st Century love.

Nicholson is at the top of his comedy game. His delightful personality pulls you in. You can’t help but liking him.

But it is Keaton who takes on the star role and plays it for all it’s worth. She shines at age 55. Although the crying and pain bit may be a little over the top, again and again Keaton steals the film as she shows her ability to get even with wandering Nicholson.

In smaller roles Amanda Peet and Frances McDormand make the story roll. Keanu Reeves plays his hunk role with understated skill.

Something’s Gotta Give is a holiday confection that brings lots of laughter and joy in the midst of the darkness of winter.

Something’s Gotta Give is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America, for sexual content, brief nudity and language. The U.S. Bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting rates Something’s Gotta Give A-III – for adults.


One of the most beautifully filmed movies of the year is now in our area. The haunting House of Sand and Fog, based on the novel by Andre Dubus III, is powerfully directed by the Russian Vadim Perelman.

House of Sand and Fog is a tragedy in the Shakespearean tradition. The acting of all the principals is excellent. Ben Kingsley’s portrayal of the determined Iranian immigrant is extraordinary and certainly worthy of a Best Actor Academy Award nomination.

Massoud Amir Behrani (Kingsley) was a colonel in the military of Iran under the Shah. With the fall of the Shah his family emigrated to the Bay area of the United States. He works two menial jobs to live in an upscale apartment comparable to their life in the Shah’s Iran. He marries his daughter off to a wealthy Iranian family. He decides it is time to better himself and his family by purchasing a house sold by the county at auction, doing minor remodeling, and then selling the house at a great profit.

Kathy Nicolo (Jennifer Connelly) lives in a modest bungalow several blocks from the beach. She is depressed, having suffered from alcohol addiction and losing her husband to divorce. She fails to open her mail in which the county authorities wrongly accuse her of not paying business taxes. Because she does not respond the forces of government are put in place to evict her and sell her home at public auction.

The result is two basically good people are now at odds with each other as Col. Behrani and his wife Nadi (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and their teenage son Esmail (Jonathan Ahdout) move into the house bought at auction. As Kathy and Massoud come in contact with each other they read each other in the worst possible light. The anger and desperation on each side escalates to almost overwhelming proportions.

Kathy finds a sympathetic confrere in a police officer by the name of Lester Burdon (Ron Eldard) who is assigned to evict her. He looks after her on several occasions and their friendship leads to a sexual relationship, even though he is married, with two young children.

The two people who are able to partially understand the opposing view are Massoud’s wife and son. Kathy steps on some nails when she in anger tries to stop the construction of a “widow’s walk” on the roof of “her” home. It is Nadi who carefully washes Kathy’s foot and uses an elastic bandage that her son provides. The scene is lyrically portrayed and reminds one of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. Mother and son are able to at least identify with the American who Massoud seems to hate with such passion.

The ending leaves the viewer numb, even if you have already read the book. It is almost too difficult to watch.

House of Sand and Fog is about the American dream of the “pursuit of happiness.” It is thought-provoking and heart-wrenching. It is beautiful and poetic. It is a film with some of the best acting of the year, bar none.

House of Sand and Fog is about good people wounded in one way or another. It is about all of us and that is one reason it hurts so much to watch.

House of Sand and Fog is rated R – under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. There is violence and disturbing images with language and a scene of sexuality.

The U.S. Bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting rates House of Sand and Fog L – limited adult audience, applied to films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling.

(Father Caswell is pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish, Cheney, and Ecumenical Relations Officer for the Diocese of Spokane. His reviews also appear in the Cheney Free Press.)

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