Town & Country
review by Elias Savada, 27 April 2001

After nearly half a decade of scripting, troubled production starts, editing, re-shooting, re-jiggering, and about a dozen missed brain-delayed release dates, Town & Country has arrived, appropriately, as a breath of stale, hot air, a "new" romantic comedy starring a quartet of wasted acting talent in a leaden script that could sink the Titanic. It's a sad case of querulous halitosis, talky takes, atrociously unfulfilled jokes, and a tankful of overpriced (an $85+ million budget…why??) disjointed incidents of adulterated comedy from the mixed-up mind of Michael Laughlin, an occasional producer-writer-director more known for his only other directorial output back in the 1980s (Strange Behavior/Dead Kid, a cult horror film; Strange Invaders, a 1950s sci-fi spoof, and the oddball drama Mesmerized/Shocked). Buck Henry, who makes scattered appearances in the film as a divorce attorney, "polished" the script to a dull finish.

Even the footage spliced together for the trailer makes you want to whine and wonder. For sure New Line ultimately decided to write this clunker off. They have a website up, but the trailer attached still proudly ends with "March 16th" as the impending opening date. It opened April 27th, if you care. I assume someone in the NL marketing department misremembered that date as the Ides of March and decided to tinker with the film for another six weeks instead of incur the wrath of cinema-going Caesars. Unfortunately any strategy in trying to glue back the broken pieces of this cracked egg was bound to go aground. As a spokesman for my fellow Romans: Two Thumbs Down.

Town & Country is definitely the kind of movie that will tarnish more than a few careers. Including that of director Peter Chelsom, who appears to have grown too fast after a charming 1991 debut with Hear My Song and the startlingly offbeat comedy Funny Bones, a truly endearing piece of slapstick worth repeated viewers. But T&C is a tired mess, with drowsy pacing and a nearly threadbare "story about men who do stupid things" as the preview heralds. Wait, perhaps they are talking about the producers who made the movie?

Basically the story of two jet-setting, upper crust, happily-never-after couples, Porter and Ellie Stoddard (Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton), hitched and bickering some 25 years, with children, a posh Fifth Avenue apartment to die for and great beachfront property out in the Hamptons; their friends in infidelity are Griffin (Garry Shandling), an antiques dealer with his own repressed secret that will leave his hissy-fitful wife Mona (Goldie Hawn) adrift in a crying game. The foursome do everything together, or attempt to, but deceit, lies, and a few bodies wander into the mix. The libidinous temptations run excessively high for Porter, a morally reprehensible, but wildly successful, architect. He plucks a naked cellist (Nastassja Kinski) with a "resonating box between her legs," mauls a Sun Valley drugstore cowgirl (Jenna Elfman) on Halloween in a bear suit, and falls prey to a rich child-bitch-in-heat (Andie MacDowell) and her family from Hell (Charlton Heston showing his true colors as spokesman for the N.R.A., although he could easily handle similar chores for Arsonists Anonymous).

As a comedy of sexual mores, the movie is paced like a geriatric lightweight. Each scene is set up the same annoyingly episodic way. Comedy lurks in the background, ready for a counter-reaction shot or double-take expectations, but the pay-off is less than inspired and generally groan-worthy. One such irritating sequence has Ellie nonchalantly handling a large carving knife, making off-hand comments to Porter about murder and extramarital activities (relating to a movie she caught earlier that day), as Porter sits there sweating bullets. Or as Porter and Mona, fresh from a casual romp at her broken down family mansion down in Mississippi, emphatically confess to each other that their Southern rendezvous was a mistake. Ba-da-bom: next shot has them sexually entangled for another quickie. For all the high-priced thespian gas pumped into this oversized balloon, you would hope for an explosion of laughs. Instead, the script and direction pinch the end of the inflated, oversexed film and you end up with that annoying, high-pierced whine of air (and the audience) escaping. The end result is the same: a limp, over-extended bore.

Overstuffed and bloated, this romantic dud is the kind of fowl weather friend everyone will want to pluck. As an affair or two or more to remember, Town & Country is better off Lost & Forgotten.

Directed by:
Peter Chelsom

Warren Beatty
Diane Keaton
Goldie Hawn
Garry Shandling
Andie MacDowell
Jenna Elfman
Nastassja Kinski
Buck Henry
Josh Hartnett
Charlton Heston
Marian Selders

Written by:
Michael Laughlin \
Buck Henry

PG-13 - Parents
Strongly Cautioned
Some material ma
be inappropriate for
children under 13








  Copyright © 1996-2005 by Nitrate Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.