The phrase ”So it goes” was famously used by Kurt Vonnegut in Slaughterhouse-Five whenever anyone or anything in the universe suffered a demise. The words could also be used to punctuate And So it Goes, the depressingly monotonous Rob Reiner-directed comedy starring Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton. Douglas plays the Scrooge role of a grouchy real estate salesman named Oren Little: He shoots a stray mutt with a paintball gun (doesn’t love dogs) and adorns for-sale homes with ethnic photos per his clients’ skin color (casual movie racist). Keaton is Leah, his next-door neighbor in whitelandia Connecticut, and she peppers him with variations on the rhetorical question, ”Do people really let you get away with being you?” And into Oren’s ornery life reappears his drug addict son Luke (Scott Shepherd) to unload his unctuous 9-year-old daughter before heading off to jail. Leah lends a hand, the little girl calls her and Oren ”grandma and grandpa,” and a new day boringly begins.
The two Hollywood legends rise slightly above the tedium on the strength of their experience. Douglas is refreshingly senior for the first time onscreen; he has the creaky gait and whistling-dentures speech of the nearly 70-year-old man that he is. And though Keaton doesn’t stray outside her neurotic-sophisticate range, the part allows for a sweet throwback to Annie Hall as her character moonlights as a lounge singer with hippy-dippy vibes. But Reiner seems not to trust the two actors and overloads the plot. Luke is not in prison for drugs, of course, but for a white-collar crime that he didn’t commit — a twisted plot tweak that cheats the film of a commentary on drug sentencing laws, an issue especially raw for Douglas, whose real life son is serving hard time for drug crimes. The Rob Reiner of the past might have tackled a challenging topic, even in a romantic comedy. But that director, who hasn’t made a good movie since the mid-1990s, is gone. So it goes. C?