Diane Keaton leads a multi-generational female ensemble in Because I Said So, a mostly frothy and predictable romantic comedy that occasionally gets serious on subjects including mother-daughter relationships and even female sexuality. The cast and viewpoint could be enough to pull in a fairly diverse female audience, but it's doubtful that this Gold Circle Films production will appeal broadly enough to achieve more than a mid-level box office gross. A better pay-off might come from the video marketplace.
Universal gives the film a wide theatrical release in North America this weekend. Despite competition coming from Oscar contenders and last week's female-led rom-com Catch And Release, the studio has marketed Keaton and her cast-mates enough to make a office mark.
Independent distributors in international markets will also need to leverage the star talent, though they may be able to spark additional interest with the film's flashes of relatively raunchy female humour.
In the script from Stepmom writers Jessie Nelson and Karen Leigh Hopkins, Keaton's Daphne Wilder is the single mother of three grown daughters: klutzy but pretty Milly (singer/actress Mandy Moore, from A Walk To Remember), stable Maggie (Lauren Graham, from TV hit Gilmore Girls) and sexy Mae (Piper Perabo, from The Prestige).
Determined to stop Milly from making the same romantic mistakes she did, Daphne secretly resorts to the online personals to find her youngest daughter a partner. As a result, Milly ends up juggling two very different men - Daphne's pick Jason (Scott, from One True Thing), a successful young architect, and accidental contender Johnny (Macht, from The Good Shepherd), an adorable single-dad musician.
The outcome is as predictable on screen as it appears on paper, but director Michael Lehmann (Heathers, The Truth About Cats & Dogs) and the cast work hard - sometimes too hard - to keep the action fun and, once in a while, dramatic.
A vibrant design scheme - Daphne has a thing for bright shades and polka dots - helps set the bouncy tone and the rather forced fun is achieved through a variety of comic devices. They range from meet-cutes and montages to basic slapstick and a scattering of mildly effective set pieces (such as a speeded up furniture rearranging sequence).
The slightly raunchy girl talk jokes sit a bit awkwardly among the overall frothiness but they do add a bit of realism to the mix.
The serious moments include some standard issue romantic encounters but also a couple of quite touching mother-daughter interactions. Among the most effective is the moment when Daphne shyly asks Milly what an orgasm feels like.
Most of the real acting falls to Keaton and Moore, but the wacky tone seems like a burden for both actors. Though Keaton has to be admired for doing an underwear scene with her younger female co-stars, her performance sometimes goes over the top. And Moore often seems to be getting by on a collection of cute mannerisms.
The male roles - besides Scott and Macht, Stephen Collins, from TV's 7th Heaven, appears as Johnny's father - are mostly one-dimensional.
Gold Circle Films
Karen Leigh Hopkins & Jessie Nelson
Tom Everett Scott