Real estate agent Tony Madonia anxiously watches the front doors of the 72-story luxury condominium tower in Chicago. We remind him that he is not being asked to sell a $1.6 million apartment to filmmaker Rob Reiner -- just to show him around the place. Madonia asks to be reminded why he's doing this.

The reason, he is told, is that Reiner has this new movie, "And So It Goes," starring Michael Douglas as a contemptuous real estate agent who falls for lovable Diane Keaton, and so it seems like a fun idea to tour some real estate while interviewing Reiner.

After all, if anything ties together the films of Rob Reiner, it may be a sense of place: the labyrinthian concert halls in "This is Spinal Tap" (1984); the military courtroom in "A Few Good Men" (1992); the fairy-tale castles in "The Princess Bride" (1987); Katz's Delicatessen in "When Harry Met Sally ..." (1989); the overgrown backwoods along the railroad tracks in "Stand in By Me" (1986).

"And So It Goes" -- set in a placid rom-com New England, the kind of setting so rarely seen in film nowadays it should be called NoraEphronville -- is less memorable. And sure, the idea of taking Reiner to see real estate is contrived, but then so is "And So It Goes."

Finally, Reiner arrives. "Taller than I thought," Madonia whispers as he comes over, hand extended, with a cheerful, gigantic smile.


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"This building," Reiner asks, "what's the story with this building?"

As we get into an elevator. Madonia explains: 355 units, 80 percent sold, 72 stories, finished in 2009.

Reiner says he lives in Brentwood. Also, in Malibu. Also, he has recently bought a place in Manhattan's West Village. "But my L.A. place -- historic," he says. "First owned by Henry Fonda, built in the '30s, Jane and Peter were born there. Sold to Paul Henreid -- Victor Laszlo in 'Casablanca' -- and then Norman Lear and then to me."

We enter a unit on the 52nd floor. It's impressive. With a short jog down a dramatically lit hallway, it opens onto a panorama of downtown Chicago.

"Very nice!" Reiner booms. "Look at this. The park there, the lake there. How much again?"

"$1.6 million," Madonia says.

"A steal at $1.6 million," Reiner says, playing along with the interview's premise. "I need to see around the rest of the apartment."

We leave the living room and find a bedroom overlooking Monroe Street.

"OK, now, see -- I think this is a selling point," says Reiner, as deadpan as a former Meathead can muster. "If you are the kind of person who is interested in having people watch you make love" -- he gestures at the floor-to-ceiling bedroom windows and across the street at a row of similar see-into rooms -- "here is your apartment. People see you, you see them."

He walks back to the living room, drops into a chair and takes in the sweeping view. It is the kind of home that rarely turns up in Reiner films. It is more like the kind of place where a Michael Douglas character might have lived in a Ridley Scott movie.

Over the past two decades, home in a Rob Reiner film has been softer, defined by lawns, driveways; there was Kathy Bates' Colorado cabin in "Misery" (1990), the White House in "The American President" (1995), the shanties of "Ghosts of Mississippi" (1996).

In "And So It Goes," filmed, Reiner says, throughout Connecticut, stone walls divide properties; antique tables display keepsake lamps; curtain patterns are tasteful; and Food Network-ready kitchens look expensive. It's an Ephronesque reality.

Reiner and the late Ephron collaborated on "When Harry Met Sally ... ," and Reiner acted in Ephron's "Sleepless in Seattle" -- the kind of cheerfully upscale everyday stories that might even seem endangered at the movies now.

"It's true," Reiner says. "Studios make franchises about superheroes, animated films or raunchy comedies. I was looking at the posters in my office the other day, and I realized not one of them would be made at a studio now. And baby boomers -- we see movies."

In "And So It Goes," Douglas plays an aging real-estate agent who shoots dogs with paint pellets to get them off his lawn and takes the parking spots of expectant mothers. As a way of distancing himself from his old life (dead wife, junkie son), he moves out of his colonial and into a seaside walk-up.

Reiner says, "It seemed like a nice metaphor for a guy leaving a successful existence and being forced into a new intimacy."

The guy is also a jerk, we say, borderline evil.

"'Evil?'" Reiner asks.

Bad choice of word, we admit.

"Hitler was evil," Reiner says. "I don't think Hitler was a real estate agent."

In a way ...

"Oh, sure, in a way. But he wasn't selling."

On cue -- as if in a Rob Reiner movie -- Madonia mutters: "Don't mind me."

At 67, Reiner is a portrait of contentment. As an actor, he pops up occasionally on screen, as Leonardo DiCaprio's father ("The Wolf of Wall Street"), as Zooey Deschanel's father (Fox's "New Girl"). And as a filmmaker, though you might argue he has not made a fully satisfying movie in 20 years, Reiner says he likes directing more now.

"When you are younger you are thinking results, and as you age, you get joy from doing. You stop thinking every decision is life or death. There's a scene in Truffaut's 'Day for Night': Guy comes up to the director (in the film): 'You want the red cup or the blue cup?' The truth is, it doesn't matter."