Town & Country

2001, Movie, R, 90 mins


So bewildering it's almost entertaining, this comedy of fiftysomethings and their extramarital affairs is one of those films you can actually see flailing for life. Less a movie than a series of House Beautiful spreads, it tries out various story ideas in its attenuated attempt to get underway — careening, for no particular reason, from New York to Paris and back — before shrugging its shoulders and becoming another movie altogether: one set in Mississippi and on Long Island. Then, halfway through, we're off to Sun Valley, Idaho, where the up-till-then naturalistic film abruptly becomes a surreal farce — THE ADDAMS FAMILY scripted by Hemingway. The four characters in search of a story are wealthy architect Porter Stoddard (Warren Beatty), his wife Ellie (Diane Keaton) and their best friends, tony antique dealer Griffin (Garry Shandling, doing his usual standup shtick) and his wife Mona (Goldie Hawn). Around his 25th anniversary, Porter half-heartedly trysts with a spacey cellist (Nastassja Kinski), while Griffin takes his own walk on the wild side. Mona spots Griffin's infidelity, files for divorce and moves to Mississippi, where she and Porter spend a night together. Mona changes her mind about Mississippi and later, after she and Porter are nearly caught having sex on Long Island, Griffin talks Porter into a Sun Valley vacation. There, Porter sees Eugenie (Andie MacDowell), an architectural groupie he'd met briefly on a plane, and the movie appears to lose its mind. The rich, increasingly eccentric Eugenie gets Porter to play-act sex with her beloved stuffed animals, while her crazy, lord-of-the-manor father (Charlton Heston) watches and makes growling noises. Another choice Sun Valley scene involves a general-store clerk (Jenna Elfman) and Beatty in a polar-bear costume (the movie's one funny bit). Leaving aside the startling shifts in tone and story, the movie's humor is often clumsy, hackneyed (chattering, camera-snapping Japanese, anyone?) and inept: Whatever slapstick laughs are inherent in seeing two big designer dogs knock over an old lady are strangled when the filmmakers show the injured woman grimacing in pain. Indeed, some scenes have the feel of first or second takes that the actors didn't want to do over — they're like excerpts from blooper reels, cut just before the performers break out laughing. Long on the shelf, this discombobulated picture was filmed in 1998, partly reshot in April 2000, and given at least a dozen release dates before finally slinking into theaters in 2001. leave a comment --Frank Lovece

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