Review by Dustin Putman
2½ stars out of 4
"Town & Country" could have been a complete misfire; if anything, it had the
makings of such. A troubled production filmed in 1998 that went through
reshoots, reedits, thirteen different release dates, and even several reels
of footage stolen at one point, it has finally been unleashed by New Line
Cinemas nearly three years later. Aside from the occasional signs of
unevenness (which most all films have to some degree) and a clumsy ending,
the movie is, pleasantly enough, not a disaster, and actually makes for an
Porter Stoddard (Warren Beatty) is a successful architect living in a ritzy
apartment on 5th Avenue in New York City, with a wife of twenty-five years,
Ellie (Diane Keaton). Ellie believes they are still very much happy together,
and Porter does love her, but that can't stop him from having a wandering eye
that has recently lead him to an affair with a cellist (Nastassja Kinski).
Porter and Ellie's best friends are another seemingly amiable married couple,
Griffin (Garry Shandling) and Mona (Goldie Hawn). When Mona spots Griffin
headed into a Bed-and-Breakfast with a redhead, she signs the divorce papers
faster than Griffin can even come to terms with what has happened. This
sudden relational earthquake causes Ellie to reevaluate her own marriage, and
the pieces start falling into place.
Affairs and marital breakup don't exactly sound like a rollicking time at the
movie theater, but as directed by Peter Chelsom (1998's "The Mighty") and
written by Michael Laughlin and Buck Henry (who also costars as a divorce
lawyer), "Town & Country" is a mostly smart, consistently funny farce
reminiscent of the type you would have seen in the 1940s, albeit with more
explicit sexual situations and coarser language.
The film does have the occasional dry patch, and certain characters jarringly
disappear and then reappear much later, causing one to realize how long they
have been missing from the story. The finale also comes off as overly choppy
and unsatisfying, when it should have gotten more emotionally intimate.
Still, there is much to like here, and the opening 90 minutes are good enough
to save the decidedly sucky ending. There are also some laugh-out-loud
moments that sparkle, both from the situations, the idea of the situations,
and the top-notch actors involved.
Warren Beatty (1998's "Bulworth") makes for an exciting protagonist who does
several unsavory things throughout, but remains accessible. He doesn't show
up onscreen as much these days, so it is always a welcome addition to have
him appear, especially in the leading man role. And at 64 years of age,
Beatty looks great, and could easily pass for 50, which is probably closer to
the age he is portraying.
Diane Keaton, who had recently seemed to be losing her acting touch in such
mediocre performances as the ones in 1999's "The Other Sister" and 2000's
"Hanging Up," is the dramatic center of the piece, and flawless in her role.
Rounding out the four major players, Garry Shandling (2000's "What Planet Are
You From?") and Goldie Hawn (1999's "The Out-of-Towners") do well with their
parts, and it is especially nice to see Hawn in a movie again, after a
two-year hiatus. Hawn's Mona, however, is the most underwritten of the
quartet, and her character, like Beatty's, doesn't always do the most savory
The large supporting cast is filled from top to bottom with scene-stealing
performers. Jenna Elfman (2000's "Keeping the Faith") is delightfully quirky
as Auburn, a girl whom Porter has a chance encounter with on Halloween, with
her dressed as Marilyn Monroe and him as a polar bear. A scene in which the
two, in costume, wrestle around in the snow is priceless. Also making an
impression is Andie MacDowell (1999's "The Muse"), as Eugenie, another woman
whom Porter has a brief fling with, only to discover that she has a weird
obsession with stuffed animals. Finally, Josh Hartnett (2000's "The Virgin
Suicides") is likable as the Stoddards' teenaged son.
Amidst the slapstick and zaniness, "Town & Country" attempts to tackle
serious issues about marriage, relationships, faithfulness, and honesty, and
doesn't quite pull it off. When the comedy is in high-gear, it works
effortlessly, but whenever the drama settles in, it feels like an entirely
different movie together (and the type that, yes, might have had a troubled
shoot). A little more thought and care put into these passages might have
helped. Still, as a silly, lighthearted confection, "Town & Country" succeeds
Copyright © 2001 Dustin Putman