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Dustin Putman

Dustin's Review
Town And Country (2001)
2 Stars

Directed by Peter Chelsom
Cast: Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, Garry Shandling, Andie MacDowell, Charlton Heston, Marian Seldes, Tricia Vessey, Josh Hartnett, Jenna Elfman, Nastassja Kinski.
2001 – 104 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for sexuality and language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, April 27, 2001.

"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 enjoyable watch.

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 of things.

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 admirably.

©2001 by Dustin Putman

Dustin Putman