Because I Said So

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This review was written for the theatrical release of "Because I Said So." 

Like the architectural-wonder cakes Diane Keaton's character constructs in "Because I Said So," the film is a stylishly gooey piece of work that demands to be oohed and aahed over. With its magazine-spread interiors and pretty dresses, this romantic comedy about a meddling mom and her unlucky-in-love youngest daughter might get what it wants. Using a recipe overloaded with adorable, too reliant on slapstick and spiced up with "modern" ideas about sex, the movie is as predictable as a crowd-pleaser can get. But crowds are likely to be pleased nonetheless, especially women who connect with its pat observations about the mother-daughter bond.

It's dispiriting to see a great actress like Keaton buying into this nonsense with such gusto. Still, as Daphne, the control-freak cake entrepreneur nearing her 60th birthday, she's the closest thing to a three-dimensional person in the film. Mandy Moore is an appealing performer, but ultimately she can't turn Milly, the object of Daphne's pathological concern, into more than a collection of comely pouts and tantrums.

The script by Karen Leigh Hopkins and Jessie Nelson, two of the writers of 1998's "Stepmom," is a compendium of cliches. Chief among these is the montage of comical interviewees -- that overused shorthand for L-O-S-E-R that parades across the screen for our condescending enjoyment, a succession of inadequate candidates for a job or a date. In this case, the would-be boyfriends are interviewed not by their potential mate but by her mother. Having placed an online ad, "Mother looking for life partner for daughter" (have more menacing words ever been printed?), Daphne holds court in a hotel lobby bar, driven to drink by the bad and the ugly.

The good arrive, too. Jason (Tom Everett Scott) is an architect -- the movie occupation du jour, signaling financially successful and creative -- and Daphne couldn't be more thrilled. There's also bystander Johnny (Gabriel Macht), a musician working in the bar. He observes Daphne with interest, and for a moment it seems this might turn into a younger man/older woman romance. But against Daphne's wishes, the faux bohemian guitarist (he wears a fedora and vest) pursues Milly, a caterer with a snorting laugh not unlike Annie Hall's. After an inventive meet-cute with Johnny involving static cling, Milly finds herself dating both him and Jason.

Who Milly will end up with is as obvious as the contrasts between the two men. Johnny's the single father of a precocious boy (Ty Panitz), and they live with his single dad (Stephen Collins) in a fashionably cluttered house on the Venice canals. Against all that humanity, Jason lives in minimalist splendor and takes Milly to sleek downtown eateries. The dream-date deck is stacked. When Milly accidentally breaks one of Jason's family heirlooms, he gets a bit testy, the brute. But Johnny is all hugs and forgiveness after the accident-prone caterer shatters a plate that he probably got on sale at Pier 1.

Still, they're both decent guys, and what's a girl to do but sleep with both of them? The film pushes a cheery attitude toward sex, complete with cell-phone conference calls about uncircumcised penises between Daphne, Milly and her two married sisters. The sole characteristic of middle sis Mae (Piper Perabo) is her love of sex. It's clear from the get-go that Daphne's sense of urgency over Milly's love life is really about her own regrets as a single woman, but the script milks the notion for all its cheap, orgasm-centric psychology.

Director Michael Lehmann ("Heathers"), who keeps the story moving if not believable, isn't above using Daphne's pet dog for frequent reaction shots. Director of photography Julio Macat showcases L.A. dream locales -- not counting a woeful Korean spa scene -- while the creations of production designer Sharon Seymour and costume designer Shay Cunliffe have pizzazz but never feel lived-in. David Kitay's music score aids and abets the script in pushing emotional buttons.

Amongst the cardboard-cutout supporting characters, Lauren Graham brings a welcome deadpan sensibility to the overeager proceedings as oldest sibling Maggie, a wry psychologist.

BECAUSE I SAID SO
Universal Pictures
A Universal Pictures and Gold Circle Films presentation
Credits:
Director: Michael Lehmann
Screenwriters: Karen Leigh Hopkins, Jessie Nelson
Producers: Paul Brooks, Jessie Nelson
Executive producers: Scott Niemeyer, Norm Waitt, Michael Flynn
Director of photography: Julio Macat
Production designer: Sharon Seymour
Music: David Kitay
Co-producer: Wendy Rhoads
Costume designer: Shay Cunliffe
Editors: Paul Seydor, Troy Takaki
Cast:
Daphne: Diane Keaton
Milly: Mandy Moore
Johnny: Gabriel Macht
Jason: Tom Everett Scott
Maggie: Lauren Graham
Mae: Piper Perabo
Joe: Stephen Collins
Lionel: Ty Panitz
Running time -- 101 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13

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