You know, there is one word that came to mind as I left the theater, and that word is “delightful.” Yes, that is the perfect word to describe Because I Said So. It is a light film that has a couple of poignant “real” moments adrift in the sea of a formulaic “chick flick.” This is a movie that exists in that Hollywood created fantasy of the romantic comedy. It is a land where people who should not, and would not, have these problems in the real world have the problems that probably exist in one form or another in the lives of many of its audience members.
Diane Keaton is the matriarch of a family that consists of three daughters produced by a strong gene pool. Keaton is Daphne Wilder, mother to Maggie, Mae, and Milly, played by Lauren Graham, Piper Perabo, and Mandy Moore (see what I mean by good genes?). Anyway, Daphne is a single mom, after her husband’s early exit, so early in fact that he never appears in the movie, whose had to be the single point of influence for her girls. Her love knows no bounds, and may just be the slightest bit invasive, particularly when it comes to Milly.
You see, while Maggie and Mae are happily married, Milly seems to be particularly inept at finding a lasting relationship. She seems to have given up, in a way, throwing herself into her burgeoning catering business. Seeing a need for a man in her daughter’s life, Daphne sets out to find one for her. This plan requires the placing of a tiny little internet ad, and setting up interviews. The interviews lead Daphne to Jason (Tom Everett Scott), a successful and handsome architect. She arranges for the two to have a “meet-cute” which leads to a dating situation. Of course things do not go as planned as Jason has a little competition, unbeknownst to him, in the form of Johnny (Gabriel Macht). Johnny is a musician who comes across as the more genuine of the two men, but they each are a good match for the lovely young Milly, if for different reasons.
By now you should probably be able to see where this going. If you can’t, take a guess as you will most likely be right. This film follows the formula with no major deviations. Formula is generally used as a criticism of a movie, I have probably used it myself, but it is not always the case. The formula is a formula for a reason, it must have worked at some point, and then it was used a few more times with more success than not. The key is to take your chosen formula and inject it with, in this case, likable characters, some light comedy, and a happy ending.
Director Michael Lehman and screenwriters Karen Leigh Hopkins and Jessie Nelson succeed at making the formula work for them. Along the way they toss in a few elements that are not traditional, yet not distracting to the proceedings. They add touches that add a little flavor to the story and perhaps help it ring a little truer within its fantasy world. Things like not making Jason out to be a “bad guy,” as would be the perfect convention to use, the addition of a love interest for the meddling mom, and the familial moments of true communication between mother and daughter add so much flavor.
The performances are about as groundbreaking as the story, in other words, they aren’t. Still, they are injected with life and a likability that will hold your attention. Diane Keaton is good, it may seem like a familiar performance, but it works. Then there is Mandy Moore who literally lights up the screen, she has great presence and a charisma that fits this type of film perfectly. While underused, Lauren Graham and Piper Perabo have some nice moments. Gabriel Macht is the stereotypical lovable rogue with a heart of gold, but he makes it work without seeming corny. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention Tony Hale in a very small role as a psychiatric patient to Lauren Graham’s practice, he is a funny guy, it seems like a riff on his Buster role from Arrested Development.
Bottomline. A delightful light comedy. It is an enjoyable watch, not a classic, but not everything needs to be. Watching Because I Said So put a smile on my face, something that we all need once in a while.