Town & Country (2001) Peter Chelsom
Production Budget: $90 million
Worldwide Gross: $10 million
Warren Beatty had a string of bad movies in the 90’s however he wanted to get back on the right track. When he signed on with New Line it was to produce Bulworth but also the promise of another movie. Beatty, using his massive Hollywood clout he got himself involved in a small comedy by the up and coming director Peter Chelsom. However, with Beatty, came his contract of $8 million dollars. And with that contract suddenly this was no longer a small picture anymore. The producers hired on actors such as Nastassja Kinski, Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, Garry Shandling, Jenna Elfman, Josh Hartnett, Andie McDowell, and Charlton Heston to round out the cast. Before you know it, $40 million was spent on the cast alone (Fiasco: Parrish).
Of course as soon as Beatty came on the problems started to mount. You see, in addition to being something of a diva, is also a fanatical manipulator. The moment he was attached to the project, he asked for the script to be rewritten. Actors and crew sat for hours on end while the pages for that day would be written and even longer when the older members of the crew would work the lines on their own. In the end the script cost $3 million dollars and was mostly written after the movie was even greenlit.
Test screenings for the movie were generally good but most thought the ending was crap. Producers were left with the option of simply cutting their losses and releasing the movie as is or reshooing the ending. Producers finally opted for the latter and the actors were wrangled up again to continue shooting on the final act of the film. However the longer this movie went, the stronger the gossip was the movie was another Waterworld type disaster. Despite all that, producers tried to advertise the hell out of it to get back some of their losses. It didn’t work. It was a movie three years in the making and had nothing to show for it. Beatty has not done anything in movies since its failure.
Is it any good? Normally when it comes to massive bombs like this I usually say “Well if you forget all the money that was spent and focus on the movie, this is not that bad…” and yada yada yada blah blah blah. Well, focusing on just the movie I can still say it is a complete mess. This movie feels like it was written day by day. Scenes just happen with no thought of the plot as a whole and sometimes are just random. In the beginning for example we see the main characters go on vacation to their townhouse. We spend about three minutes with them just having small talk and then they fly back to New York. What purpose was that trip? None. Did it do anything to advance the plot? Not at all. Other side characters have similar useless plot threads. Like for some reason, Porter’s daughter is seeing the Spanish house servant and the recurring joke is they have loud sex. Is that even a joke? There is no point though. Or take Charlton Heston’s plotline for example. He plays a jealous father who is also a gun nut. You would think that is a funny scenario but this movie sucks all the life out of it plus it also has the bonus of being another waste of time. The Andie McDowell/Charlton Heston plot line could have been cut with it affecting nothing else about the story.
The poor writing even follows when we are talking about the main plot. Why does Porter (a supposedly devout husband of over 20 years) decide for two weeks to f*ck everything with two legs? Never explained. Why does he decide to stop when apparently he is enjoying this lifestyle? Um, he has a change of heart. Well, why? I don’t know…shut up! Nothing ever follows logically in this story and you are dragged along from one incomprehensible unfunny mess to another.
I still don’t think I am getting across how frustrating the writing really is but I will try one more example. We are shown early on in the movie that Garry Shandling’s character is gay (even though he is married) and later on states he wants to be true to who he really is. Fine. I am totally fine with that. But the rest of the movie we see Shandling picking up on and f*cking chicks. And no, he is not bi-sexual: he admits he is gay and only likes men. Yet he tries to pick up women…DO YOU SEE HOW STUPID THIS IS!?!?!?
What is the humor like? Well it is like it is trying to be Woody Allen but ends up like Three’s Company. Beatty gets in “crazy situations” where he almost gets caught sleeping with another man’s wife. Oooo how is he gonna get out of this goofy pickle? Mixed in with that is *groans* slapstick and even Beatty dressing up in a bear costume. First the Avengers with the bear costumes and now Town & Country: I am seeing a disturbing trend.
But let’s have some borderline racist humor when all else fails. Let’s have their house servant be a Latino who has his shirt off (because that’s what all those crazy Latin people are) and speak comically broken English. Or how about some Japanese tourist characters that just don’t understand us Americans. Look I know some movies can’t stop from having at least one token character. I can forgive those movies and not just toss out that label for a movie. But when a movie portrays all foreign characters as offensive jokes, it raises my hackles.
The most embarrassing part is that Beatty is still living out his glory days in this movie. This movie really isn’t a self deprecating look at an aging lothario. No, this is Warren Beatty, pretending to be Warren Beatty in his 30’s. You simply don’t buy the frumpy looking Beatty in his 60’s still being able to f*ck endless waves of models in their 20’s.
This is the worst kind of movie to me, and that is an unfunny comedy. Because if the movie isn’t funny, then what else have you got? The writing is terrible, most of the performances are wasted, and the direction is amateurish. I could not recommend this movie to anyone at all.