‘Mack & Rita’ assessment: Becoming Diane Keaton, in a nasty film

Who doesn’t love Diane Keaton? Or frankly, wish to be Diane Keaton? The Oscar-winning star has had a movie and tv profession spanning six a long time, she’s a trend icon, and she or he’s executed all of it in her personal singularly distinctive and quirky approach. It’s not stunning then, that within the fantastical and fluffy comedy “Mack & Rita” — written by Madeline Walter and Paul Welsh, directed by Katie Aselton — a struggling younger author needs to be as cool and assured as Keaton herself, or somebody like her — as in, older. Rendered literal, that want leads to a story that may very well be described as “Freaky Friday” meets “Old.” It’s a cute idea, however seems to be a lemon when you begin kicking the tires.

Watching Keaton learn the telephone e book can be entertaining. Sadly, the telephone e book would have made extra sense than the screenplay for “Mack & Rita,” which ditches character institution and clear battle for fish-out-of-water bodily comedy and a few vaguely affirmative classes about studying to be your self, unapologetically.

Twenty-something Mack (Elizabeth Lail) is an creator turned social media author/influencer. Although she seems to be younger and hip, she’s actually an previous soul, who desires of dwelling like her pricey grandmother, swanning about in colourful caftans, not caring about what different folks assume. This want for the caftan life is outwardly a wrestle for Mack, as she violently resists the youthful capers of her associates throughout a Palm Springs bachelorette celebration for her finest pal Carla (Taylour Paige).

Worn out from a bottomless brunch, aghast on the notion of a “Bad Bunny concert in a refrigerator,” Mack stumbles right into a “past-life regression pop-up” and clambers into an previous tanning mattress on the behest of Luka (Simon Rex). He guides her by way of a meditation about who she actually desires to be, and out pops, naturally, Diane Keaton. Hastily Mack is the daring and trendy 70-something she’s at all times dreamed of changing into.

Posing as her “Aunt Rita” till the issue will be remedied, Mack slides again into her life with a number of bumps alongside the way in which. She’s received a brand new groove as Rita, flirting along with her next-door neighbor Jack (Dustin Milligan), and changing into a shock Instagram sensation. The story is ostensibly about how the privilege of age will help one study to embrace their foibles and idiosyncrasies, however we’re by no means fairly clear on particularly what these are for Mack.

If rising older is empowering, it’s because of the expertise you acquire and the teachings alongside the way in which; these years spent incomes grey hairs and chortle strains. It’s not one thing you’ll be able to skip. Mack/Rita finally figures this out, due to a sassy wine membership of grandmas, however it’s somewhat too late.

Any and all age-swap shenanigans, baffling eventualities, and flaws within the idea may very well be forgiven by a greater understanding of Mack, whose points appear muddled and trivial. Rita, effectively, who even is Rita? She’s meant to be Older Mack, however she’s simply Diane Keaton delivering her signature adorably neurotic routine (if it ain’t broke). There’s no consistency of character or efficiency between Lail and Keaton, and it at all times looks like we’re watching Mack AND Rita, not two variations of the identical individual.

Aselton has a light-weight contact as a director, and she or he properly trots out an all-star parade of comedy heavyweights to distract from the script points. It’s arduous to be mad at a film wherein Patti Harrison juggles three cellphones as Mack’s harried agent, and Nicole Byer leads a beachside breathwork session that someway finally ends up lighting Rita’s hair on hearth. The supporting characters, even within the smallest of roles, are a spotlight.

Maybe somewhat Keaton cosplay will be therapeutic, however true knowledge comes from time spent, not simply an age swap. Because of the adventures of Rita, Mack lastly learns to simply put on that caftan if she desires to, although precisely what was stopping her within the first place stays a thriller.

Katie Walsh is a Tribune Information Service movie critic.

‘Mack & Rita’

Score: PG-13, for some drug use, sexual references and language

Operating time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

Enjoying: Usually launch Aug. 12