A film review by Craig J. Koban

BECAUSE I SAID SO  j

2007, PG, 111 mins

 

Daphne - Diane Keaton / Milly - Mandy Moore / Johnny - Gabriel Macht / Jason - Tom Everett Scott / Maggie - Lauren Graham /
Mae - Piper Perabo / Joe - Stephen Collins

Directed by Michael Lehmann /  Written by Karen Leigh Hopkins and Jessie Nelson

 

Diane Keaton has been an adorable and likeable presence in the movies.   She has always been a gifted actress when it comes to walking that delicate middle ground between light comedy and heartfelt drama.  She gave memorable performances in films as far ranging as THE GODFATHER trilogy, ANNIE HALL (still her finest hour), and was even wonderful in recent films like SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE.  At times, even when she's in decidedly awful material, she is able to rise above it and carve out decent work. 

That latter sentiment can’t at all be held in regard to her performance in the new romantic dud, BECAUSE I SAID SO.  Keaton can play broad comedy well, but in the film she is so loud, clumsy, belligerent, over-the-top, and hysterically animated that she could take the Jar Jar Binks Award for "most annoying and overbearing on-screen presence" in recent film history.  BECAUSE I SAID SO is bathed in mediocrity through and through, but it’s even more dissatisfying from the absolutely cringe-inducing work of Keaton, who plays her mother-from-hell persona with such outlandish strokes.  Every time she’s on screen, the film grinds to a halt.  It’s truly embarrassing to see an intelligent and savvy actress play stupid so badly.

Consider one would-be hilarious scene where her character, Daphne, is on-line looking for a date website in hopes to find a suitable man for her socially awkward daughter, Milly (played by the always cute and bubbly Mandy Moore).  She manages to make her way to one site that looks promising, but when she clicks on one of the links, she discovers that – Great Scott – she is on a porn site that also includes bestiality.  She recoils in utter horror and starts screaming at her PC.  He phone rings and its one of her daughters.  She, of course, asks what that noise is in the background.  Ho, ho.  Now, you’d think that Daphne would not be so inanely dumb.  She obviously knows how to use a computer and the Internet.  Why could she not simply close her browser, or restart her computer, or just turn the damn volume off? 

Scenes like this one a ludicrously bad, which are made all the more unpleasant to sit through because of Keaton’s incessant willingness to play her histrionic role as  cartoonishly as possible to achieve laughs.   Everyone else in the film seems fairly grounded in reality.  Daphne is such a overbearing, conniving, and lecherous woman that how anyone in the film – with a brain in their head – would not send her to the loony bin is beyond me.

Daphne is clearly mentally unstable.  Yet, BECAUSE I SAID SO takes great pains to show this woman as someone that – gosh darnit – loves her daughters so much that she would do whatever it takes to get them a worthwhile husband.  Keaton has never been so comedically brittle and flaccid.  She is simply not playing a real, living, and breathing character; she is, in essence, playing a cardboard stereotype.  Never once in the film did I buy Daphne as a real world mother with attachment issues.  Keaton, as stated, can be lovable, but in BECAUSE I SAID SO she is a constant irritant.  At one point she develops laryngitis and can’t speak.  I can’t remember saying to myself “Thank God” more forcefully while watching a plot development.  At least the film answered my prayers of wanting Keaton to shut up for one minute.

The film’s overall premise is wishy-washy and ridiculous.  It begins with introducing us to Daphne, Milly, and the two other daughters, Maggie (Lauren Graham, one of the few actresses here playing things straight) and Mae (Piper Perabo, as gorgeous as ever, but as clueless as ever with her meager and marginalized performance).  Daphne is starting to have serious fears that her third daughter, Milly, will not find a man soon, which in itself is kind of ludicrous.  Milly is a young babe who should have no problem finding Mr. Right.  Alas, in this film’s Idiot Plot-inspired universe, gorgeous and readily available twenty-something women have a difficult time securing dates. 

Yup.  Sure.  Uh-huh.

Being the quintessential meddling mother, Daphne decides to take matters into her own hands.  She decides to run an Internet classified ad seeking a “life-mate” for Milly, but – of course – Milly has no clue about this at all, which will likely payoff later with some silly and moronic finding-out-scene.  Amazingly, Daphne is able to have many “interviews” with several prospective candidates.  This montage where she meets and greets all the men is supposed to be funny, but it ends up being kind of...well…creepy.  Yet, in this film’s universe, it’s knee-slappingly funny to see a mother try to prostitute her daughter out to any anonymous stranger.  Most of the men are categorically weird, but they are a few worthwhile prospects.  Yet, why would other handsome and available suitors respond to the ad?  Surely, they should not have to reduce themselves to these levels?

However, fate checks in when a wealthy and successful architect named Jason (Tom Everett Scott) swoops in.  She is the man of Daphne’s dreams, who she hopes will be the man of Milly’s dreams.  Jason seems likeable, good-looking, and is rich, so Daphne convinces him to ask her daughter out.  Jason does ask Milly out and the two start dating and hitting it off.  However, there is an anomaly in Daphne’s plan when a hunky musician named Johnny (Gabriel Maccht) also tries to score a date with her.  He does not do so via the Internet ad, but rather tries it his own way.  Amazingly, he too starts a winning relationship with Milly.

Now, here is where the film gets really lame brained and predictable.  Milly, as played by Moore, is such a sweet and innocent presence that she has no motivation whatsoever to date two appealing men at the same time.  Her character does not display the type of disloyal and false facades that would be needed to date multiple men at the same time.  She is – at face value – too amiable and kindly of a woman to commit such acts.  Yet, in the film Milly is reduced to a unlikeable tart.  She sees both men, lets them on, and manages to sleep with both of them while lying to both about the other.  Clearly, Daphne’s plan to get her daughter to hit it off with a man is unsavory, but there is something disheartening and vile about what Milly does as well.  There is a hidden and disquieting cruelty to it.

There is another problem with the film and that is primarily when it comes to the two male leads in Milly’s life.  The film is on clichéd and romantic auto-pilot in terms of going out of its way to make one of them the more appropriate knight in shining armor for Milly.  Jason, for example, seems like a very affable and well-meaning person, as does Johnny.  But, Jason is rich (meaning arrogant and snobby) and Johnny is lower-middle class (meaning kind and understanding), and he has a troublesome little brat of a child.  Jason, on the other hand, gets a bit snarky when Milly accidentally brakes a precious family heirloom.  This scene rings manipulatively because it begs the audience to side with Johnny.  When something similar happens with Johnny, he shrugs it off.  Well, Clearly we should want Milly to side with him…right?  From all perspectives, Jason seems to be the most worthwhile presence in Milly’s life, but the screenplay willfully abandons him to concentrate on Milly getting Johnny.  Also, we are given that obligatorical moment where Johnny finds out about Jason, where he rightfully dumps Milly’s behind.  I am not sure why he would later try to get her back.  Milly is, after all, a deceitful liar.

If the overall premise of the film is weak and mishandled, then the film’s laugh quotient is also seriously lacking.  BECAUSE I SAID SO was directed by Michael Lehmann,  who made the ingeniously funny 40 DAYS AND 40 NIGHTS about a young swinger that gives up sex and woman for Lent.  He also made HEATHERS way, way back in 1989, still one of the darkest and funniest high school black comedies of the 1980’s.  His approach to the material in BECAUSE I SAID SO seems flat and uninspired.  Perhaps the film could have worked much better if he made it a viciously macabre black comedy, which would have made Keaton’s performance more tolerable, not to mention her motivation in her scheme.  So many scenes lack any laughs at all, as is the case with an early moment where Daphne gets man-handled while getting a massage, or when she gets a cake in the face (you can see that from a proverbial mile away) or when she and Milly have a frank discussion about what orgasms feel like.  Honestly, I can’t speak for all women out there, but when was the last time you tried to re-enact what an orgasm felt like to your mother?

BECAUSE I SAID SO commits comedic atrocities of not being funny and having a gimmicky plot that is rife with incredulous disdain for its characters.  The film is a woefully derivative, intellectually sour,  shamelessly manipulative, and an abysmally bad chick flick which contains a shockingly terrible performance by Diane Keaton, whose presence is akin to fingernails on a chalkboard.  BECAUSE I SAID SO is a disastrous comedy that is dead on arrival.  Very rarely has a genre film like this been so utterly bereft of comic inspiration and believable and likeable characters.  It’s appalling to see gifted actresses scrape the bottom of the barrel for inspiration and laughs.  Keaton not only scrapes the bowl, but licks it clean.

 
 

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