|Something to Talk About|
|DVD Romantic Comedy|
|Written by Bill Warren|
|Tuesday, 14 December 1999|
Because of an incomplete-seeming script (by Callie Khouri), SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT never quite jells, despite a fine cast, some good dialog and excellent production values. Although the ending is emotionally satisfying on a basic level, it still leaves you wanting more than the film provides.
Julia Roberts plays leading character Grace Bichon; she's married to Eddie (Dennis Quaid), has a spunky, horse-loving daughter Caroline (Haley Aull), and works for her wealthy, horse-breeding father Wyly (Robert Duvall). Grace lives in the same Southern city where she grew up, and lives a basically unexamined life; she's more under the thumb of her cheerfully domineering father than she likes to admit, is active in a local women's group, and tends to be a little scatterbrained -- in the opening scene, she forgetfully leaves Caroline behind twice.
But then she accidentally discovers that Eddie has been having an affair, and suddenly Grace's life snaps into focus. She immediately moves back to her parents' ranch, where her arch, witty sister (a well-cast Kyra Sedgwick) wryly comments that she shouldn't have been surprised about Eddie. He wasn't nicknamed "Hound Dog" in college for nothing. Sedgwick gets most of the best lines, and delivers them with style.
Unfortunately, there's very little that's novel in SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT; it's the familiar story of the wife whose life is actually improved by an impending divorce, who realizes almost too late that she should have been paying more attention to everything all along. She dropped out of veterinary school to marry Eddie, she works for her father when she'd really rather be doing something else, and she hasn't been paying as much attention to Caroline as she should.
The fallout from her marital problems affects her parents, too; her mother Georgia (Gena Rowlands) tries at first to convince her to go back to Eddie, but Wyly's blithe assumption that the man is always right, even in these circumstances, begins to shake Georgia's faith in her own marriage.
But it's essentially a comedy, and though the path is rocky, we know that it will lead to everything on the mend, with Grace a better person for all her adversity.
This weakness, the familiarity of the story, is compounded by weak characterizations for the two leads. The trailer (included on the DVD) features several scenes that aren't in the movie, indicating a fair amount of post-production "corrections" were made -- and maybe some important characterization elements got dropped. As it is, we simply don't know enough about Grace, even though she's the central character. We see far too little of the marriage before Eddie's infidelity is revealed to understand what their marriage was like.
Roberts is fine in the role, of course; when she smiles, it's easy to forgive her almost everything. But Quaid is miscast; with that devilish grin, it's far too easy to believe he's up to no good, and hard to accept his attempts at reforming. The movie was executive-produced by Goldie Hawn; one wonders why she overlooked Kurt Russell as a candidate for the role of Eddie. He probably would have worked out better than Quaid does. He doesn't give a bad performance; it's just that he was the wrong man for the job.
Everyone else is excellent, particularly Robert Duvall, who's always excellent. As the selfish but loving Wyly, who's been a horseman all his life, Duvall is convincing right down to his bow legs. It's the most complex role in the film, too; he's a likable cuss, but we can see that his family has always deserved better from him than his condescending (but unconditional) love.
The title suggests that the fast-spreading gossip about Grace and Eddie's breakup may have been more emphasized in an earlier draft of the script; now, it's just something that pops up occasionally. It does lead to a scene at the ladies' group in which an angry Grace goes too far, and reveals the infidelities of other characters. But the scene is false; we're supposed to regard it as Grace blowing off steam in a comic fashion, rather than that she's potentially ruining other marriages. There's no follow-up, either; her action has no consequences.
The setting is curious -- wealthy horse breeders who ride their own horses at shows -- and never entirely convincing. Lasse Hallstrom exhibited a much more confident sense of place in WHAT'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE and THE CIDER HOUSE RULES. The locations are gorgeous, especially as photographed by the great Sven Nykvist, but only the accents of some of the characters really give us a sense that the story is taking place in the South.
It's a graceful, watchable movie with appealing actors and a rich, creamy look, but SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT really isn't anything much to talk about. It's instantly forgettable, a hiccup in the careers of all involved.
There's nothing special about the DVD, either; like the movie, it's a professional piece of work without much distinction.