Have you noticed? There seems to be a proliferation of movies about growing old, lately. I’m not exactly sure why. Could be, because so many of the screen writers, producers and directors are, themselves, in their fifties and sixties, and beyond. Could also be, because so many of the great actors are, as well. And they need roles they can play.
Robert De Niro. Al Pacino. Meryl Streep. Tommy Lee Jones. Judi Dench. Maggie Smith. Jack Nicholson. Denzel Washington. Susan Sarandin. Jeff Bridges. Samuel L. Jackson. Helen Mirren. Bill Murray. Christopher Walken. Bill Nighy. Ben Kingsley. Malcolm McDowell. Diane Keaton. Steve Martin. Glenn Close. Kathy Bates. Sigourney Weaver. Geoffrey Rush. Liam Neesen. And the list goes on. And on.
Yeah, they’re boomers. Hard to believe, isn’t it?
God knows they don’t want to be forced into retirement. And we don’t want them to retire, either. They’re way too talented. And we enjoy their films far too much.
At least I do.
It could also simply be good business. There are more than 450 MILLION boomers in the world. A HUGE demographic. And, an important and lucrative one. Everyone’s trying to get their attention. So it’s no wonder Hollywood wants them to go to the movies. Give them the kind of movies they want to see and they’ll really make the cash register ring. And ring. And ring.
The first such film I saw was Hope Springs, starring Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. Not the most likely pairing, but it worked. They were great together. And, they were a bit awkward with each other. Of course I don’t know if that was good acting, the fact they’re not a duo most people would think of, or a combination of both.
Or none of the above. All I know is, the end result was perfect. Because they were meant to be a bit awkward with each other. The intimacy, the familiarity that comes with living with someone for many, many years, the comfort with each other had gone out of their relationship.
Long married, now empty nesters, theirs was a marriage that had become tired. Stale. Sex was a thing of the past. They didn’t even sleep in the same room, any more. They had stopped communicating. On every level. They didn’t really say anything when they spoke to each other, either. Not that they talked a lot. He didn’t seem to notice. She, as it turns out, was miserable.
Happens on every street, in every neighbourhood, in every city, in every country.
She insisted they try a week of intense couples counselling (Steve Carell). It was funny and sad at the same time. And a lot like standing just outside your own life, looking in. Not that I’m married, mind you. But I’ve seen relationships like this pretty close up. Not in my immediate family, thankfully, but with friends and acquaintances.
So it definitely hit close to home. And the script was so ‘authentic’, and the acting so spectacular, it sometimes made me feel uncomfortable. Like I was peering through a keyhole.
But very real, for many, many people in this age group.
Another film I loved was The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Based on the novel, These Foolish Things, again the subject was boomers, this time facing retirement. Suddenly waking up one day, feeling ‘over the hill’. Not feeling old, not wanting to be old, but having to deal with the reality. Each for their own set of reasons, seven British pensioners, all strangers, set off on an adventure, moving to what they believed was a luxurious, yet affordable, retirement hotel in Jaipur, India.
A recently widowed housewife was forced to sell her home to cover huge debts left by her late husband. A high-court judge, who’d spent his first eighteen years in India, decided to retire and go back to find the lover he’d been forced to abandon. A couple who lost most of their savings investing in their daughter’s internet business were desperate for an affordable retirement. A retired housekeeper with a bum hip goes for far less costly surgery, than is available in England. A well off, but lonely, woman is on the prowl for a new husband. And an aging lothario wants to recapture his youth.
What they discover, about the hotel, themselves and each other, makes for a very entertaining two hours.
There were many reasons I was drawn to this movie. I’d spent time in Jaipur, and loved it. So an opportunity ‘to return’ was one I welcomed. I couldn’t wait to see if I recognized any of the locations. Which, by the way, I did not. Didn’t matter one whit. I still loved it. And the cast! Who could resist a movie with this many fabulous actors? Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson and Penelope Wilton. And Dev Patel, of Slumdog Millionaire fame, as the ‘proprietor’ of the hotel. Plus I’m also a fan of the director, John Madden.
So the instant it was in the theatres, there I was.
And last week I saw Quartet. Directed by — surprise, surprise — Dustin Hoffman (directorial debut). Yes, you read right. Benjamin Braddock (The Graduate), Ratso Rizzo (Midnight Cowboy), Ted Kramer (Kramer vs Kramer), Michael Dorsey (Tootsie), Raymond Babbitt (Rain Man) etcetera etcetera etcetera — that Dustin Hoffman.
I was surprised too. Even more once I’d seen the movie. Not a film I would have expected him to direct. But he did a great job. It’s a wonderful movie.
A British comedy-drama, with yet another stellar cast, Quartet is based on the play of the same name, which ran in London’s West End from 1999 – 2000. The story is about a retirement home for gifted musicians. Each year the musicians and singers living there, put on a concert on Giuseppe Verdi’s birthday. This year’s event is critically important, because if a sizeable amount of money isn’t raised, the home may be forced to close.
As luck would have it, a series of rivalries and theatrical ‘temperaments’ threaten the performance, at the one time when ‘the show MUST go on’. Again, there’s a superb cast: Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins; and their only rival is the location, itself. The film was shot at Hedsor House, a Georgian style mansion in Buckinghamshire, in the village of Hedsor, Taplow. Perched overlooking the River Thames, it’s origins can be dated back to 1166.
All I know is, I’m ready to move in.
Do any of you happen to know if there’s a fabulous retirement home for writers anywhere?
Incidentally. Dustin Hoffman is 75! Now that blew me away.