Because I Said So (United States, 2007)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Because I Said So is a made-to-order romantic comedy of the type "B" variety (that's the one where the heroine is torn between the socially and financially "ideal" guy and the one who really makes her happy). As I have previously written, a formulaic approach is not always a bad thing in a romantic comedy provided the screenplay shows moderate intelligence, the characters are appealing, and there's chemistry between the leads. Fortunately, Because I Said So satisfies these criteria. So, despite being rooted firmly in "chick flick" territory (with a high "cuteness" index), it has the capacity to please to viewers of both genders who appreciate the genre.

The movie starts with a premise that's in Santa Claus territory. Mandy Moore plays Milly, a beautiful, desirable young woman who also happens to be a fantastic cook but who can't find Mr. Right. Like Santa Claus, this person exists only in fantasy since there is no way someone as smart and alluring as Milly is going to be starved for meaningful companionship. However, that's what suspension of disbelief is all about. So I'll give the filmmakers a pass, especially considering that Moore is attractive and appealing and probably more enjoyable to watch than someone who might do a better job filling the part "realistically."

Milly's sisters, Maggie (Lauren Graham) and Mae (Piper Perabo), are happily married and her mother, Daphne (Diane Keaton), is beginning to despair that her third daughter will never find a mate. So, in the best tradition of the Meddling Motion Picture Mother (MMPM), she decides to take matters into her own hands. She runs an Internet classified ad seeking a "life mate" for her daughter then screens the candidates. She finds a clear winner - successful architect Jason (Tom Everett Scott) - and contrives for him to meet Milly. The meeting is successful and they start dating. At the same time, Milly encounters musician Johnny (Gabriel Macht) - who also met Daphne but was found wanting - and begins a relationship with him. She is soon involved with both men and can't figure out how to disentangle herself from either relationship. Jason is the better catch but Milly can be more herself around Johnny.

Because I Said So incorporates a few elements that are not typically given prominence in a standard romantic comedy, the most obvious of which is the MMPM character. Diane Keaton gives depth to what is essentially a stereotype, and this allows her scenes with Moore to have substance. Keaton plays some scenes for laughs (such as when she accidentally logs onto a porn site and can't figure out how to turn down the computer's volume) but there are other times when she illustrates a truth about mother/daughter relationships. The sequence in which Daphne asks her daughter what an orgasm feels like is both funny and touching because there's honesty in the way both Keaton and Moore play it. I also appreciated the sister/sister scenes, although there are too few of them. Both Lauren Graham and Piper Perabo are underused. Milly's two suitors are what they're supposed to be. Although Tom Everett Scott's buttoned-down Jason is destined to lose out, the film doesn't turn him into a villain. As Johnny, Gabriel Macht represents the ideal: sexy, adventurous, a little bohemian, and capable of vulnerability. Meanwhile, Stephen Collins playing Johnny's dad) shows up to allow Daphne to enjoy a little romance of her own.

Based on her performance here, Mandy Moore should do more romantic comedies. This is a genre in which she shines. Given the right male lead and a strong female co-star or two, it's hard to see her appearing in many misses. She has a star quality that has largely been squandered in past efforts. The screenplay for Because I Said So may be short on invention but it is large on heart. It also doesn't overplay the humor. There are would-be funny sequences that don't work (such as the overused montage in which Daphne interviews a bunch of weird dates for her daughter or the scene where Maggie tries to get rid of a suicidal client), but there are enough genuine laughs to keep the material light.

The director is Michael Lehmann, who has strayed far from the cutting edge where he began his career. The man who made the corrosive black comedy Heathers has moved toward the mainstream. At least Because I Said So is an improvement over his previous backfire, 40 Days and 40 Nights. This time, Lehmann has a stronger script and a better cast. Few actresses have aged with grace the way Diane Keaton has and even fewer are capable of playing romantic leads at age 60. It's a testimony to Keaton's appeal that audiences accept her in this role and, while the part isn't as fully developed as in Something's Gotta Give, her presence enriches the proceedings. Because I Said So will work for those it targets and is a pleasant reminder that not all February movies are unbearable.

Because I Said So (United States, 2007)

Run Time: 1:42
U.S. Release Date: 2007-02-27
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Sexual Situations, Profanity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1