Town & Country

on April 27, 2001 by Michael Tunison
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   How far can a movie get on the power of aging screen idol Warren Beatty's flummoxed reactions to various uncomfortable situations? About as far as "Town & Country," a frequently amusing if awkwardly plotted infidelity comedy that ultimately fails to utilize the full potential of its high-watt cast.

   Initially a sophisticated Manhattan quirk-fest in the Woody Allen vein, the storyline follows seemingly rock-solid family man Porter (Beatty) as he and his vivacious wife Ellie (Diane Keaton) react to the news that their close pal Griffin ("What Planet Are You From?'s" Garry Shandling) has been cheating on his wife Mona (Goldie Hawn). Then Porter finds himself involved in uncharacteristic extramarital affairs with a goofy cellist ("The Claim's" Nastassja Kinski) and, even more disastrously, the rebounding Mona. As he and Griffin escape to the mountains to ponder their disintegrating marriages, Porter embarks on even stranger relationships with a pair of younger women ("Groundhog Day's" Andie MacDowell and Jenna Elfman of TV's "Dharma and Greg").

   Director Peter Chelsom ("The Mighty") and his capable players squeeze plenty of idiosyncratic character humor out of Michael Laughlin and Buck Henry's script, particularly when it comes to some memorable early material set in Porter and Ellie's out-of-control household. They are less successful veering into stranger territory in the choppy second half, in which symptoms of the film's widely reported production problems begin to crop up. A darkly comic episode about Porter visiting MacDowell's character and her insane, gun-toting father (Charlton Heston) feels like it was snipped in from another film, while the attempt to bring the story's numerous threads together for the screwball finale is painfully contrived. Beatty, Keaton, Hawn and Shandling all have chances to shine in the sorts of character roles they do best, but unfortunately "Town & Country" doesn't add up to more than the sum of some individually funny parts. Starring Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, Garry Shandling, Andie MacDowell, Jenna Elfman, Nastassja Kinski, Josh Hartnett, Charlton Heston and Marian Seldes. Directed by Peter Chelsom. Written by Michael Laughlin and Buck Henry. Produced by Andrew Karsch, Fred Roos and Simon Fields. A New Line release. Comedy. Rated R for sexuality and language. Running time: 104 min

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