When Charlton Heston is the funniest thing in a comedy, you’ve got problems. Such is the case with Town & Country, the star-crossed film that strands a group of talented people in what appears to be a floating wax museum. This long-delayed, $80 million picture deserves to be reviewed not on its budget or its production problems but whether it provides a reasonable amount of diversion, so let us stick to what’s on the screen.
It’s still pretty bad. The movie opens in tired “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” form: Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton are fabulously rich Manhattan architects. In the opening moments, we learn that Beatty has strayed from his marriage, into a dalliance with Nastassja Kinski’s fantasy babe (i.e., she’s sexy, cheerful, and undemanding of anything other than the occasional afternoon liaison). The glamorous architects are friends with Garry Shandling and Goldie Hawn, whose marriage comes apart when Hawn spies Shandling in the midst of an affair.
The rest of the picture criss-crosses their problems. Beatty and Hawn go to Mississippi to check out her country home, and enjoy a brief coupling. Beatty and Shandling go to Sun Valley to relax at Shandling’s country cabin, where they meet up with a literary cashier (Jenna Elfman) and an apparently psychotic socialite (Andie MacDowell). Beatty visits MacDowell’s parents (a gun-toting Heston and Marian Seldes) at their Idaho lodge, where he and MacDowell snuggle in bed with a lot of stuffed animals with cutesy names. This is how Heston gets to the point of speaking the line, “I know Floppy well,” which was one of the only things in the movie that made me laugh.
Garry Shandling carves some moments out of this, by virtue of his signature stammering and whining. Hawn reminds us of her perky physique, which is undeniable, but Diane Keaton can’t do much of anything, having no character to play. There’s only the occasional flicker of directorial oddness from Peter Chelsom, who made Hear My Song and Funny Bones into delightful odes to directorial oddness.
The stitched-together feel is enhanced by Beatty’s spotty voiceover, which appears at the beginning and then disappears for about an hour. Eventually the movie comes around to a Beatty speech about fidelity and commitment (as in Love Affair, another toneless comedy on the same subject). It is tempting to conclude that this is the legendary womanizer’s way of publicly atoning for his past; but that’s a lot of money to spend for a confessional, especially one with so little entertainment value.