"We've got a problem?" Porter Stoddard asks his wife Ellie. "Which one?"
she asks in reply. Although she is asking him which color of swatch he
prefers, this interchange could just have easily been said about Peter
Chelsom's comedy TOWN & COUNTRY. Before an orchestra starts, it carefully
establishes a reference tone. One of the biggest problems with TOWN &
COUNTRY is that it never finds any consistent or successful tone. The
result is a dreadful comedy that's as flat as a can of soda left open all
Wearing her signature nerdy and eclectic suits, Diane Keaton plays Diane
Keaton, although the other characters insist on referring to her as Ellie
Stoddard. Warren Beatty plays Porter, Ellie's husband of 25 years. When we
first meet Porter he is enjoying a personal cello concerto in his hotel
bedroom. A naked Nastassja Kinski has her cello in a bear hug. The cello
looks particularly happy. Can't say that I blame it. But, I digress.
It seems that this is the first time that Porter has ever cheated on his
wife. He swears to himself to never yield to such temptation again, but he,
of course, does not keep this vow. Before his wife can catch him, we switch
to their equally wealthy Manhattan friends, Mona and Griffin (Goldie Hawn
and Garry Shandling), whose marriage is going through its own crisis since
Griffin has been caught dallying.
The country part of the story comes from the decrepit mansions and snow
cabins that the couples visit after their marriages go awry. While in Sun
Valley, the two guys off on their own run into a local (Jenna Elfman) who
takes them to a Halloween party. Elfman dresses as Marilyn Monroe on her
visit to President Kennedy, Beatty dons a polar bear suit and Shandling
wears an Elvis outfit. The visuals of a tipsy Marilyn Monroe frolicking in
the snow with a horny polar bear is one of the few memorable or even mildly
amusing parts of the production. (The less said about Charlton Heston's
embarrassing role as a mad, gun-toting father, the better.)
The film has reportedly been recut several times in order to find some
version that works. The editors clearly stopped too soon. They should have
kept cutting until all that was left was confetti. They could have used the
confetti to celebrate something worthwhile like some better movie's release.
TOWN & COUNTRY runs 1:36. It is rated R for sexuality and language and
would be acceptable for most teenagers.
Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes