Mack & Rita addresses the culturally relevant issue of many thirty-somethings feeling at odds with current fads, trends, and the ever-changing economy. With life constantly moving on, it’s easy to feel behind and, dare I say it, old.
Mack (Elizabeth Lail) is a self-effacing old soul, which is code for someone who likes books and isn’t in tune with today’s youthful language and fashion. Raised by her grandmother, Mack grew to appreciate all the things that make older women fun and quirky.
Mack & Rita: Movie Review
She wants to be a serious writer who doesn’t have to sell herself for brand sponsorships forced upon her by her influencer-obsessed agent. Desperate to slow things down and find that sense of calm older women have, Mack gets her to wish when she lies down in a converted tanning bed that ages her into Diane Keaton.
Madeline Walter and Paul Welsh’s screenplay captures Mack’s anxiety well enough. Being an “old soul” may be coded language for a myriad of superficial quirks, but the challenge of facing the digital world is something many people struggle with. The movie loses its way when it reaches for meaning and forgets to be a comedy.
The body-swapping situation aims to criticize the notion that one is never “too old” for anything, despite jokes about a thirty-year-old man on a skateboard. As sweet as the sentiment is, the movie could have gone a different route, one that just leans on the absurdity of body swapping, with Mack shamelessly embracing her strange new life. For that to be the case, Keaton had to be the best choice to play Mack (or Rita as she’s called).
Keaton is clearly having fun, more fun than Taylour Paige (as Carla), who delivers her lines through a clenched jaw and a look in her eyes that suggests this might not be where she wants to be. In the rest of the ensemble, there are some hard-wearers, but they don’t have much work or fun. Elizabeth Lail does her bit by playing a strange author pre-transformation, preparing Keaton to capture the big acting moments she’s used to delivering.
The role seems tailor-made for Keaton. Rita exhibits all of Keaton’s signature traits – she sounds like she’s constantly on edge, she’s dizzyingly awkward, witty, and wide-eyed. It becomes apparent very quickly that Keaton is entertaining in a movie that can’t quite live up to her level.
Mack & Rita follows a recent series of Keaton-led films designed to challenge Hollywood’s practice of pushing women over 50 out of the picture. Poms, Book Club, and Mack & Rita have a unique mission: Make Old Age Cool. Keaton plays it perfectly. Does that mean Mack & Rita is great? No. Is Diane Keaton’s performance somewhat enjoyable?
Yes. Not only is Mack & Rita saddled with a lackluster script that has heart but minimal laughs, it, unfortunately, looks like it belongs on NBC. The sitcom nature is understandable once you look at the writers’ previous credits, but visually the movie is stunningly bland, flat, and lifeless. Without big laughs or anything worth getting excited about, Mack & Rita comes across as a bloated sitcom pilot.
Mack & Rita could have been a Golden Girls-esque comedy to fill the hole left by the series. Book Club was better at delivering its message and entertaining with a fully engaged cast. Fortunately, it will see a sequel. Mack & Rita, on the other hand, is a rollicking, well-intentioned comedy that falls flat despite Keaton’s Herculean effort to create something that not only excites her but amuses everyone.
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