Town & Country


Much has been written of the fact that “Town & County” began filming in 1998 and was not released until April 2001. Watching the movie, you realize someone didn’t go to all that work because they believed in the project, for surely it became clear long ago what a piece of crap it was going to turn out to be. No, this movie exists for one reason and one reason only: pride.

Director Peter Chelsom had serious trouble getting the film put together. It seemed like an insurmountable task. At some point, he must have decided he was going to release this movie IF IT WAS THE LAST THING HE DID. No matter how lousy, how boring, how pointless it was, he was NOT going to let Fate and movie studio executives keep him down.

You have to admire his tenacity, but by no means do you have to enjoy his movie, or even watch it. It’s not the worst movie ever made; it’s not even among the worst five movies of 2001. But it’s more bad than good, and some elements are quite disturbingly hackish.

Warren Beatty plays Porter Stoddard, a rich Manhattanite who, after 25 years of marriage to Ellie (Diane Keaton), suddenly begins an affair with a young cellist (Nastassja Kinski). Meanwhile, his platonic friend Mona (Goldie Hawn) discovers her husband Griffin (Garry Shandling) is having an affair, too — and then she starts one with Porter.

So now there are two married couples unhappy with each other, threatening divorce and throwing each other out of the house. Porter and Griffin go to a remote cabin in Sun Valley to find their manhood, or something, and Porter winds up in a bear suit. (I don’t feel like explaining it any better than that.)

Two pluses. First is the casting. Garry Shandling is genuinely funny, though not often enough, as the sexually befuddled Griffin. He makes me laugh. Also, I like the idea of casting Charlton Heston as a gun-toting maniac — the part he was born to play. Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn are top-notch actresses, too, and quite likable even when they’re performing bad material.

The other high point is a scene near the end when all the women with any connection to Porter wind up in the same public restroom. The comedy there has great mayhem potential, and while it disappointingly stays too low-key, it is an entertaining moment.

Everything else about the movie is bad. It’s not funny, first of all, which is a major liability for a comedy. (It even has an old woman who swears a lot — a joke that was old even in 1998.) The thing is, it rarely even seems to be trying. It’s not being serious, either, but neither is it humorous. The movie begins, stuff happens, then stuff stops happening for a long time, then the movie ends.

My test question for a movie like this is: Why would you want to watch it? The answer is, you wouldn’t. It’s a terrific cast — Andie Macdowell is also included — and it’s utterly wasted. What a shame.

D+ (; R, frequent harsh profanity, strong sexuality, some partial nudity.)