‘Something’s Gotta Give’ – Who was the Better Love Interest?

As someone who typically is not a fan of rom coms, there is something to be said about any film Nancy Meyers makes. Not only does she write fully developed, unique characters throughout her ensemble casts, but she also envelopes her audiences in the world she’s created in each film (yes, including her glorious kitchens). An instant classic in her filmography is 2003’s Something’s Gotta Give starring Academy Award winners Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson alongside Amanda Peet and Keanu Reeves. This soulful, quirky film may seem run-of-the-mill rom-com, but it’s so much deeper than that as the film covers feminism, ageism, writing, and all sorts of relationships. 

When I first saw Something’s Gotta Give, I was fourteen years old, and I instantly thought Erica (Keaton) made the correct decision in choosing Nicholson’s character at the end of the film. He’s charming, he sees the real her, and he truly changes for her. Now that I’m older and wiser (maybe), I truly don’t understand this decision. She forgoes a charismatic, sensitive, genuine doctor played by Reeves in order to end up with a shallow, emotionally-stunted man. Nicholson’s character, Harry, is superficial in every aspect; he’s a music executive for a hip hop label, and even he laughs describing his job. He’s known for only dating young women, including Erica’s daughter, Marin (Peet), at one point. He’s essentially a man child as we see him recovering from a heart attack in Erica’s (beautiful) Hamptons home. He’s unable to do anything for himself or listen to simple instructions from his (handsome) doctor, Julian (Reeves). 

Something’s Gotta Give has a simple, typical rom-com premise. Girl brings older man to her mom’s vacation home for a fun weekend, but her mom and aunt (Academy Award winner Frances McDormand) are actually already there for the weekend! Everyone hates each other, but her mom secretly enjoys the unexpected company of Harry. One of the funniest ‘meet the boyfriend’ dinners on screen ensues with the four of them having an incredibly awkward meal where they fight about, well, feminism. Harry has a heart attack when he tries to sleep with Marin later that night, where Erica saves him with CPR. Eventually, they rush Harry to the hospital where a very attractive doctor, Julian, treats him (and hilariously discovers Harry has taken Viagra). 

Julian is instantly attracted to Erica. He’s quite the opposite of Harry. His dark hair is long and flows. He’s in his mid-30s. His tee hugs his body in all the best ways. He shops at the farmers market, forgives easily (for a kiss), and loves theater. He’s a heart doctor who loves theater! And by theater, we mean particularly Erica’s plays. When Julian is introduced, both Erica’s daughter and sister can’t help but make eyes at him, but they both know he’s down for Erica, and that’s exactly what the doctor ordered for her (I’m sorry, I had to!). 

Harry, in comparison to Julian…is quite different. He’s definitely old. He isn’t someone many would want to see in a fitted tee. His suits never quite fit and he seems to find comfort in a bowling shirt. He smokes cigars (indoors) and listens to loud music at all hours of the night. Harry is inconsiderate of his host when he’s bedridden post his heart attack and recovering in Erica’s home. Erica hates everything about Harry on paper but she can’t help but also be attracted to everything she hates about him, too. She finds him intelligent and thinks he’s funny. While he may be a bad boy, there’s an attraction to him not being ‘too easy’ to love. Erica is motivated by organization, planning, and feels like a true adult with her life together. Harry’s piggish ways truly are the opposite of hers. However, she truly can’t help but fall for him as he lets his guard down with the first woman over thirty years old he has ever slept with. 

When Harry eventually recovers from his heart attack, he finds comfort in Erica. He worries it’s a side effect of his heart attack, but STILL has sex with her and tells her she’s the ‘kind of woman you love’ the next morning. But he then feels cured of his stint of ‘old man disease’ and says he ‘doesn’t know how to be a boyfriend.’ Harry goes right back to his womanizing ways in New York City, leaving Erica behind in the Hamptons hard at work on her next play. In comes Doctor Julian with fresh flowers from the farmers market, a clever line, and the approval of Erica’s sister. Their relationship is easy; he’s attracted to her, both physically and intellectually. She’s inspired and writing, and he supports her. He even has one of the best lines about not being intimated by her success and Reeves’s delivery lives rent free in my mind. 

After watching Julian and Erica become an item, Erica’s new play takes off, and finding joy in her life, Harry takes six months to ‘find himself’ and make amends with all those whom he wronged. He ends up at Marin’s home to apologize and essentially check in on Erica, who has flown to Paris to celebrate her birthday. Harry thinks he can make the ultimate gesture, find Erica in the City of Love, confess his feelings for her, and get the girl. He finds her in Paris, makes the speech, but she’s with Julian and they’re the ultimate, happy couple. Harry can see the ease of their love snuggled in a booth together, sharing champagne. Just when you think Erica has finally won, Harry and Erica meet on a bridge and as they previously had done on the set of her play, they share a kiss under snow flurries. 

When I was a teen, I loved this ending. She got the guy who changed to become the best partner for her. He didn’t even want her at first but fell in love with her because she was so confidently herself and secure in her life. This was inspiring to me that she was so effortless in just being Erica, Harry was able to forget any of his preconceived notions about only being with some young thing until he found the next one. He just loved who Erica was. Now that I’m older (and married), I find this the opposite of romantic and practical for life. 

Harry can’t prove his commitment to Erica in a way that would ensure she’s safe in the relationship. Successful relationships aren’t built on grand gestures and promises to change; they’re built on trust and security with love and agreement on what comes next in life. Sure, Harry can inspire her through heartbreak to write one of the best plays of her life, but what comes next after that? The relationship, while between two age-appropriate people, feels immature and not built on anything of foundation to last. While Julian was much younger than Erica, his feelings for her were real, and he wasn’t playing games. He saw her for who she was the whole time

The contrast between two age gap relationships of Harry/Marin and Erica/Julian is brilliantly executed by Meyers as you can see that sometimes the age gap isn’t necessarily inherently bad. While Something’s Gotta Give is one of Meyers’s best films, one cannot help but wonder if perhaps the better love interest was the heart doctor who loved a successful, powerful woman (played by a young Keanu Reeves). 

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