Last of the Chick Flick Sureties Go Down With Sinking Ship

    Remember when Diane Keaton was a charmer in witty films about love’s absurdities? And Michael Lehmann was directing beautifully twisted satires like “”Heathers””? If such talented filmmakers continue to collaborate on dead ends like Universal Studios’ “”Because I Said So,”” the future of romantic comedy looks dim. Because time is cruel – both to the characters in the pair’s latest film and to the unfortunate masses who will watch all 102 minutes of this familiar look at love and family.

    The overbearing, unbelievably suffocating Daphne Wilder (Keaton) – though loveable with all her quirks – spends life meddling in the love lives of her three daughters. Milly (Mandy Moore), the youngest and most fragile, announces through tears that she will follow in the footsteps of her mother and live husband-free, causing the already intrusive Daphne to place a secret ad in the newspaper in a desperate attempt to find Milly a life partner. In one of Hollywood’s most visited tunes – the love-hate relationship between mothers and daughters – Milly is thrown into a whirlwind of romance and deception.

    Good old classifieds! Overnight, clumsy Milly goes from suitorless nerd to sex bomb, with two equally charming men tripping over themselves to win her heart. On the one hand, there is the handsome and self-centered architect Jason (Tom Everett Scott), who offers Milly a posh life filled with penthouses and wine trips to Italy; on the other is Johnny (Gabriel Macht), a caring musician with boyish good looks and an adorable son who can offer her a humble life of comfort and laughs. Not surprisingly, all the signs point in one direction: When she is with Johnny, her famous souffles are perfect, whereas with Jason they always fall. She has embarrassing blunders with Jason, but feels right at home in the carefree world of Johnny’s rambunctious family life – and yes, the end is as foreseeable as it seems in the first 15 minutes. Throughout Milly’s “”deliberation”” process, the audience is expected to empathize with her two-timing as an acceptable option for lonely young girls.

    In one especially soul-revealing scene – in case anyone has slept through the film’s first half – Daphne confesses to Milly that all the criticism and interference was only to protect her daughter from the heartbreak she had once experienced herself. To aid her dear mom, Milly awkwardly explains the feeling of an orgasm, but – rest assured, Meg Ryan – the discomfort of the conversation smothers all humor, not to mention any supposed emotional bonding. And when Daphne begins an affair with Johnny’s father, the implausibility of the situation is only outdone by the preposterously sudden change in her outlook.

    Keaton is usually synonymous with brilliant chick flicks, but her cringe-worthy, over-the-top portrayal of the already extreme Daphne counters the rule: She begins with such exhausting intensity that by the end of each encounter, she’s in the type of crazed frenzy that would place most people in institutions. Fortunately, Moore gives a relatively honest performance, sacrificing a little of her own beauty to soothe over the nerves of her mother and reduce the panic level of the film.

    In every way, “”Because I Said So”” is aged – it’s unsurprising and artificial, but worst of all, it succumbs to stereotypes. If we haven’t gotten past the idea that a 20-something woman needs a husband to be successful, can we at least go back to the time when romantic comedies were good too?

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