Town & Country (2001)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Screwball Comedy, Farce  |   Release Date - Apr 27, 2001 (USA)  |   Run Time - 104 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Nathan Southern

Box office disaster struck in the spring of 2001, with this infamous boondoggle that toplined Warren Beatty, Garry Shandling, and a supporting ensemble of A-list female stars, in a botched attempt to create a sexy romantic roundelay. Filming began in 1998, and the picture suffered from a myriad of behind-the-scenes conflicts, production delays, frantic rewrites and overruns that generated much negative press and pushed the budget up to elephantine levels. As a result, seams are constantly visible onscreen, particularly in terms of style and tone. Town never finds a consistent note, careening wildly from dopey bedroom farce to surrealistic comic nightmare to satire of misperceptions, and back again. And continuity is also an issue, though not in a way that you can necessarily put your finger on; the actors often appear to be speaking through one another, as if they are cut together from separate movies. With Buck Henry scripting, and such a game cast at the fore, one wonders how this project could have misfired to this degree, but it does. Not absolutely everything is a disaster; Beatty's line readings are occasionally fresh, and Marian Seldes and the late Charlton Heston also get a few laughs - she as an obscenity-spouting old woman in a motorized wheelchair, and he as a shotgun-wielding arsonist who burns Beatty's cabin down. Otherwise, this is a real dog. It's also a monument to Hollywood profligacy; by some estimates, the production cost as much as $110 million, and brought in less than $7 million stateside. As an upshot, the losses somehow didn't impede the later output of the individual producers or destroy the career of director Peter Chelsom, and distributor New Line ended the year on a far more lucrative note, with its Tolkien series that went on to gross billions of dollars. Only Beatty seemed to take a real hit; this marked his last screen appearance for well over a decade.