How did we get here? Michael Lehmann
's career seemed like one of those no-brainers, destined to slowly pour a mixture of cyanide, ammonia, and pop rocks into the drinking well of modern teen romps and romantic comedies. A debut film tends to state a director's intentions, and Heathers was the sort of debut that said "lock up your prom dresses and get out your garter belts, this ain't gonna be pretty." Somewhere, these intentions were lost like a mentally ill turtle that surprisingly found itself in the toilet bowl.
Heathers sashayed into theaters in 1989 and since then, Lehmann has turned in nothing but guilty pleasures and unfathomable duds. In hindsight, one could have never seen the man behind Hudson Hawk, My Giant, 40 Days and 40 Nights, and The Truth About Cats & Dogs also being responsible for one of the most influential films of the 1980's. But here we are: 18 years after Heathers, Lehmann reduces his talent to a spasmodic headache about... sweet Jesus, you got me. Article continues below
At the age of 60, Daphne (Diane Keaton
) has married off two of her three children with the help of her successful catering business and no help from a long gone husband. The only daughter left is Milli (Mandy Moore
), a quirky but brilliant chef who helps run the catering business. When her desperate attempts to hook Milli up don't turn up any fruitful leads, Daphne heads to the web and posts an ad for her to interview men to date her daughter. In a particular misfire, Daphne goes through all the interviewees (Guess what? One of them doesn't speak English!) and only comes up with one charmer, an architect named Jason (Tom Everett Scott
). She thinks she's found gold, but a rather quixotic guitar player named Johnny (Gabriel Macht
) also nabs Milli's business card. Let the games begin!
With the usual ruminations on safety vs. spontaneity and charm vs. personality, Because I Said So (the title is referenced ad nauseum) spends an inordinate amount of time attempting to find a foothold. A film with these clichés and awkward exposition can usually be saved by plot structure, pacing and tone but Lehmann seems to lose grasp of every single virtue he has, including his solid cast. Keaton usually can do no harm but here her neurotic scream-to-stutter charm wears thin within the first half-hour and only gets worse from there. This becomes particularly dangerous when she becomes lustful for Johnny's father (Stephen Collins going 180 degrees from his 7th Heaven days).
The one note of interest is the frank sexual talk that Daphne has with Milli and her other daughters (amiably played by Lauren Graham
and Piper Perabo
). If this was played up in Jessie Nelson and Karen Leigh Hopkins' meandering script, there's no telling what kind of devil's pie Lehmann could have served up. Maybe it was just a fluke that Lehmann got attached to Daniel Waters' sublime script for Heathers. (The talent is in the blood: Daniel's younger brother Mark directed Mean Girls.) Because I Said So even seems scattershot and misbegotten by normal romantic comedy standards and those are about as high as the plywood clown in front of the ferris wheel.