Producers: Michael Jacobs Director: Michael Jacobs, Scott Mednick and Vincent Newman Screenplay: Michael Jacobs Cast: Diane Keaton, Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, William H. Macy, Emma Roberts, Luke Bracey, DazMann Still, Michael Kostroff and Adrienne Lovette Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
Established writers must often look back wistfully on their early indiscretions, believing that a do-over could turn a disappointment into a hit. Most resist the temptation to try surgery, but Michael Jacobs, an occasional playwright who found his greatest fame in television sitcoms (he created “Boy Meets World,” which ran for seven seasons, among others) has succumbed. His first film as a writer-director is identified as based on one of his plays, but coyly omits to say which. A little research reveals that it’s “Cheaters,” which was produced in New York in 1978, when Jacobs was only twenty-two—one of the youngest playwrights ever to have had a play on Broadway. Despite featuring a well-known quartet of performers—Jack Weston, Lou Jacobi, Doris Roberts and Rosemary Murphy—it was a quick flop, running for little more than a month. Now revised as “Maybe I Do,” it’s unlikely to have much more luck on screen, even with a cast that’s even starrier.
When “Cheaters” was written, the king of comedy on Broadway was Neil Simon, and Jacobs was obviously trying to mimic his style. But his play, at least insofar as one can tell from the present offering, resembled Simon at his clumsiest. The first part of the picture is some fifty minutes of set-up involving the six major characters. First Howard (Richard Gere) and Monica (Susan Sarandon) are introduced sharing a bed in a ritzy hotel. It’s revealed that both are married to others, and have been having an affair for four months. Richard wants to break it off, which angers Monica, and when he walks out, she vows vengeance.
Elsewhere Sam (William H. Macy) is sobbing helplessly into a tub of popcorn while watching a pretentious foreign movie in a nearly empty arthouse theatre. Another patron, Grace (Diane Keaton), goes over to console him. They go off to a crummy motel nearby and get a room, but merely talk, following that up with a walk around the city. Then they go home to their spouses. Unsurprisingly, sad-sack Sam’s wife is the waspish Monica, and kindly Grace’s husband is Richard.
At a wedding reception, meanwhile, bridesmaid Michelle (Emma Roberts) is waiting to catch the bouquet. Her live-in boyfriend Allen (Luke Bracey) jumps in to grab it instead. When they get back to their apartment, they have a fight. Michelle wants to get married, but commitment-phobic Allen wants to keep things as they are. Michelle packs up and goes home to mother; Allen decides to visit his parents for advice. It turns out that Michelle’s mom and dad are Grace and Howard, while Allen’s are Monica and Sam. Holy coincidence, Batman!
Much advice ensues. Monica is all for Allen moving on, Sam for him making up with Michelle; Grace tells her daughter to repair the relationship, while Richard urges caution. Finally Diane suggests that they all get together for dinner—the youngsters and the parents who’ve never met, they all think.
The dinner constitutes what was obviously the play’s second act. While Michelle and Allen go upstairs to reach some big decisions, the four parents are left to sort matters out. There is discussion of love, infidelity, forgiveness; there are recriminations and sappy explanations. Monica is spiteful, Sam resigned, Grace hurt, Richard apologetic. They talk about the pains of growing old and wondering about what might have been. Will they break up? Will the young couple make up? The answers are all too obvious, and Jacobs does not disappoint by introducing any surprises; he has the formula down pat.
“Maybe I Do” offers an occasional decent quip, but is constructed like a six-part puzzle in which the pieces fit together way too easily, and even actors as skilled as these can’t milk many laughs from the tired jokes or much emotion from the serious speechifying. Jacobs secures professional work not only from them but a few supporting players (DazMann Still as Luke’s friend, Michael Kostroff as the motel clerk, Adrienne Lovette as a waitress who commiserates with Howard—and the crew (production designer Rick Butler, cinematographer Tim Suhrstedt and editor Erica Freed Marker) as well. It’s abundantly clear, however, that the short shelf life this material had on the New York stage was well deserved, though it might have played better in dinner theatres, where the standards were less demanding than on Broadway.
So if the cast entices you into thinking about maybe watching “Maybe I Do,” don’t.