Foreshadowed by a swelling inventory of ego collisions, inflationary spirals, executive bloodshed, and release-date equivocations (13 delays over two years), the doddering farce Town & Country limps into theaters at long last, practically begging, with every arthritic pratfall, to be put out of its misery. Flooding its WASP-porn milieu with the stink of boundless, blinkered privilege, T&C is, in essence, an antediluvian portrayal of male midlife crisis, reducing any imaginable extramarital complication to a crass matter of gender warfare: Men are ruled by their dicks; women are programmed to shrilly declare this a genetic fact.
Warren Beatty plays a moneyed Manhattan architect who has been married for 25 years to a successful designer (Diane Keaton). His adulterous best friend (Garry Shandling) has just been served divorce papers by his wife (Goldie Hawn) when Beatty himself is presented with a revolving door of eager bedmates, including lustful heiress Andie MacDowell, who brings him home to her senile, trigger-happy dad (Charlton Heston, in a sinister and unfunny self-parody). T&C might as well have been titled Warren & Diane & Garry & Goldie (intersecting filmographies encompass Reds, Shampoo, Love Story, and The First Wives Club). The closest thing to an authorial voice is the incestuous Hollywood clubbiness.
Shuttling between Museum Mile and the Hamptons, hired hand Peter Chelsom enforces a gritted-teeth jauntiness, even when he’s tripped up by the grim mortifications of Michael Laughlin’s apparently unfinished screenplay (Buck Henry was enlisted for 11th-hour patchwork). This is the kind of movie that reveals 10 minutes in that Shandling’s lover is a man (a cross-dresser, actually), and withholds the ageless “I’m gay!” punchline for the grand finale, which is staged, for maximum jaw-dropping effect, in a room full of posh strangers. (The only curiosity the movie finds funnier than illicit sex is foreigners, or more riotous still, illicit sex with foreigners.) Once it’s done with toothless mockery, T&C attempts to enlist sympathy for these creatures. Shandling, whose expression suggests someone on the verge of violent nausea, comes closest to succeeding.
Equally oblivious to its own towering obsolescence, the overzealous black-comic caper One Night at McCool’s counterintuitively fucks with the noir equation—tripling the chumps and watering down the femme fatale. Or should that be hosing down? Liv Tyler, in the movie’s pathetic softcore money shot, can be seen washing a car and communing with the hood in slo-mo Whitesnake-video fashion (gushing spout, damp sponge, suds spilling from cleavage). A luckless trio testifies to the vampy Jewel’s havoc-wreaking ways in Rashomon flashbacks: Amiable dimwit bartender Matt Dillon confides in pompadoured hitman Michael Douglas; kinky-masochist lawyer Paul Reiser consults stern shrink Reba McEntire; pious widower cop John Goodman confesses to his priest. Jewel’s inconsistencies are a function of the gimmicky narrative geometry, and a poor match for an actress of such visibly finite range. Dutch director Harald Zwart coats it all in a brittle layer of protective irony. His idea of sardonic counterpoint is to score a shoot-out to “Y.M.C.A.”