We're supposed to find Oren hilarious.
In the opening moments of And So It Goes, Oren Little (Michael Douglas) visits the grave of his beloved wife, who has died of cancer. This scene is supposed to humanize Oren, who is horrible to most of the people he interacts with. Unfortunately, director Rob Reiner wants us to spend 90 more minutes figuring out that deep down, Oren's a sad guy, not a bad guy.
Sometimes it makes sense to have an irascible, abrasive protagonist do a little onscreen growing up to earn our affection, as well as the affection of a romantic interest. Such was the case with Billy Crystal's character in When Harry Met Sally..., another film Reiner directed. But And So It Goes doesn't portray this growth process in a realistic way. Instead, the film seems designed to satisfy a weekday matinee crowd that doesn't want to wrestle with anything unpleasant.
Oren, a real estate agent in coastal Connecticut, looks like a huge a-hole to the residents of a small apartment complex he owns. Among those residents is Leah (Diane Keaton), a recently widowed woman who bursts into tears while singing standards at a local restaurant. All she sees in Oren is a guy incapable of dealing with his son, Luke (Scott Shepherd), a recovering addict about to serve a short jail sentence. Leah thinks even worse of Oren once he seems unwilling to care for his 10-year-old granddaughter, Sarah (Sterling Jerins), while Luke is serving his time. Leah becomes the primary caretaker for Sarah, forging such a strong bond that Sarah asks to call her Grandma. Oren simply makes the girl baloney sandwiches and plops her down in front of Duck Dynasty.
Oren and Leah become chummy, despite the awkwardness of their initial encounter. We're supposed to like this development, and Reiner is not subtle about this fact. What's more, we're supposed to find Oren adorable and hilarious. When And So It Goes introduces a very pregnant character, it's obvious that Oren will play a funny role in delivering the baby. This scene is further proof of how much And So It Goes wants us to admire the old rascal.
Douglas has played plenty of stiff, entitled guys over the years, so he knows exactly when to switch from a gravelly growl to a crooked smile to create chemistry with Keaton's charming yet insecure Leah. But that doesn't make the ingratiating nonsense that surrounds him any easier to take.