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Town and Country

  town and country
Historical footage: Diane Keaton and Warren Beatty, circa 1998.

2001, New Line
All Rights Reserved

2001 seems to be the year for long delayed films to finally hit the screens. With "15 Minutes," and "Company Man" released, plus "O" and "Impostor" on deck, there is a curiosity with these films that goes beyond simply enjoying them. We wonder why such high profile pictures are left out to dry for so long. While no "The Day the Clown Cried," 1998's "Town and Country" makes its way to the big screen after a multitude of delays and reshoots. After finally viewing the film, it's hard to wonder why so much dander was raised over a harmless screwball comedy starring Warren Beatty.

Porter Stoddard (Warren Beatty) is facing his mid-life crisis. Married for 25 years to his wife Ellie (Diane Keaton), yet engaged in an affair with a younger musician (Nastassja Kinski) and his best friend's wife (Goldie Hawn), Porter is slowly being consumed by his infidelities. Counseling his friend (Garry Shandling) on his divorce, Porter begins to learn the value of a good marriage. However, he cannot help but find himself in all sorts of episodic predicaments with the women who lust after him.

In trying to decoupage with what was shot over the last three years, "Town and Country" is carelessly disjointed and confusing. With so many hands in the cookie jar, "Town's" story has been damaged beyond repair. The final result resembles more of a salvage effort than a feature film. With character and motivations coming and going as they please, and little attention being paid to pace, "Town" soon crumbles under the weight of all the worry the film has created. While there is a joy in watching utter junk that has been obviously toyed with, "Town and Country" just has the unpleasant air of being continually second guessed. Moments of hilarity and poignancy are quickly dashed as the committee of filmmakers and suits have decided to keep this 800-pound gorilla moving at all costs.

In one incredibly limber performance, Warren Beatty heads quite a cast in "Town and Country." Playing what only could be taken as a modest parody of Beatty's past dalliances with women, the actor seems to delight in this rare opportunity for slapstick comedy. The character of Porter doesn't quite live up to Beatty's enthusiasm as we are never allowed to understand Porter's conniving ways. He is seemingly cheating on his wife just to cheat, unlike the Shandling character who is given quite a good reason to why his eyes wander. The core relationship between Ellie and Porter is left unexplained. This alone leaves a gap in the narrative and makes the often vague "Town and Country" all the more confusing.

The best parts of "Town" are the scenes in which the film relaxes and starts to explore its funny side. With Beatty and Garry Shandling ably handling the one-liners and physical comedy of the second act, the rest of the film is sandwiched between a Woody Allen-ish opening and an ending that is far too pat.

Written by Buck Henry and Michael Laughlin, "Town and Country" is the type of high-minded sex farce that they just don't make nowadays. And maybe that's a good thing. I'm not too sure "Town" has an audience anymore. Reminiscent of a late 1980s Bette Midler comedy, I can't imagine crowds turning out in droves to become emotionally invested in the problems of spoiled white rich people who live in the penthouse apartments of New York City. This is Woody Allen without the personality or the expectations. "Town and Country" isn't the disaster it could've been, however it certainly isn't all that great of a film. Maybe back in 1998, "Town and Country" had the integrity running throughout the picture that only seems to shoot out sporadically in this altered version.

Filmfodder Grade: C-

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