Love in the Autumn of Life

There’s to be another ‘Exotic Marigold Hotel’ with Richard Gere added to the returning cast to give the sequel even more pulling power. All of us of a certain age will flood to the multiplexes to see that, no doubt! Finally film-makers are realising they’re on a gold mine appealing to the baby-boomer generation. Why trouble wasting millions on the fickleness of GenY with newly retired, sixty-pluses, looking for stuff to spend their children’s futures on, even if it’s only heading off to Gold Class for a splurge. Yes, the eye candy of Hollywood’s ever youthful ‘next big things’ is okay for us not quite geriatrics, but we also yearn to continue our journeys with those actors of substance that we have matured alongside, see them strut their stuff while they still can. There’s only so many taut young hotties flexing their six-packs or breasts we can take – we do not want to be constantly reminded of what once was! We also need something that reflects where we are in life as well. We need reminders that the scrapheap is still a little way away just yet and that even, at our age, we are still capable of adventurings of the heart and mind – just as long as they aren’t too much of a physical nature. We need to know that there are still silver linings to be experienced. And, unlike all our sons and daughters with their digital dexterity, as a rule we will leave laptops, ipads and other assorted gizmos to them and troop off to the cinema to have a collective experience doing so. Yes, there is a profit to be had showing us actors of a certain age finding love anew, or perhaps rekindling it in exotic locales. Three times this last fortnight I have left the comforts of the abode by the river to view the latest, in an increasingly crowded field, of that nature at my favourite North Hobart cinematic haunt.

The first viewed was ‘Le Weekend’, featuring an English couple – competently played by Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan – who are attempting to recapture the zing of more romantic times by revisiting, where else but Paris – the City of Love. Meg still seems to have a bit of zest about her but poor old rumpled Nick has seen better days – he is a sad sack worn down by life. He’s a burnt out teacher having just lost his job giving a female student a reality check – not the done thing in this era of the need for hyper-senstivitiy to the delicate feelings of oncoming generation. The young miss complained and of course poor Nick was given his marching orders – not that Meg is aware of that. As their former honeymoon hotel is a disappointment, Meg throws caution to the wind and books into one of the city’s finest, with views to the Eiffel Tower no less. Nick trails disconsolately in her wake. Soon, though, Nick rouses himself and professes to be up for a bit of nookie. Meg is off hand in her rejections and at this stage the viewer feels that this cannot possibly end well. Enter Jeff Goldblum, playing a quirky former colleague of Nick’s, whom the couple accidentally come across. The trajectory of the narrative now starts to change course. He is married to a younger woman, this not helping matters with the older duo. Then Meg finds herself being propositioned by a man, decades more youthful, at a diner the Goldblum character invites them to. Whilst Meg is tempted, Nick also finds a soul mate of sorts and we soon find we have to revisit our feelings on just how it will all pan out. The answer is with a bit of naughtiness, but elaborating any further will let the cat out of the bag. Go see it and have a giggle – the humour is gentle and there’s plenty to like about ‘Le Weekend’.

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Be warned, though – there is a scene that I felt was decidedly ‘off’ – and interestingly the venerable David agreed with me. I felt it was unnecessary and demeaning of the actors to expect it from them. Something similar occurred in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ and I had no problems with it – it could be expected in that excess of debauchery and the participants were much less than of a certain age – if that makes a difference. My daughter and my partner reckon I greatly resemble Mr Stratton in looks and gestures – perhaps I am beginning to think like him too!

The second, I thought, despite the critics demurring, was the most successful and entertaining of the three – yet it too had its faults. I think the reason I enjoyed it is that I just simply like Michael Caine. Of course, in my mind, he’s forever ‘Alfie’ and in this movie, ‘Mr Morgan’s Last Love’, we can conceivably see what may have become of that hedonistic young man in his dotage. Again the city was Paris – the scene where the old fella Matthew forces open a long closed window to reveal what a breathtaking view he has of the Eiffel Tower from his apartment is magic, as well as ridden with symbolism. You see, he’s just picked up a ‘bird’, to use Alfie speak, on a bus. Pauline – winsomely played by Clémence Poésy- was the problem for the critics though. What would a vibrant young thing like her see in a run down, aged crusty former American academic, still paralysed by grief from the death of his life partner? To me, this didn’t seem implausible at all – after all, on her part it was purely platonic, even if our hero was head over heels. What, to me, did not ring true at all was her falling, in turn, head over heels for his son Miles, a not overly pleasant character reeling from a busted marriage (great seeing ‘Weeds’ man Justin Kirk in another light). Matthew is not about to make a fool of himself with the young Parisian lass – although his son and daughter (the latter played in loathsome fashion by Gillian Anderson) don’t see it that way. Another of the critics, gripes was the cockneyism of Caine’s American accent – I agree, it was all over the shop. Surely it would have been simpler to have him play an Oxbridge ex!! Yes there were flaws, but it was satisfying viewing. We are never too old to have our heads turned by a pretty face, so long as it all is kept in perspective, as Matthew strove to do.

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Gloria – what a force of nature she proved to be! Fervently and bravely played by 53 year old Chilean actress, Paulina Alfonso, this effort from the world’s most slimline country has gonged at festivals world-wide. She’s not over-attractive is Gloria, but is one of these character actors who possess a certain something, especially when she allows a radiant smile to light up her face. Not that, initially, she has too much to smile about. The singles’ scene is proving rather barren for her when she desires something more than dissolute one night stands. When one fellow, Rodolfo (Sergio Hernández), comes back for more, she feels she has finally lucked in and starts the head over heels stuff with him. He, unfortunately, is carrying a little too much baggage; still pandering to his former wife and his daughters, despite his obvious passion for Gloria. Eventually our heroine decides she has to drag herself out of the love-lorn abyss. This she does so spectacularly. She indulges herself in the mother of dummy spits, creating mayhem with a gun in one of the movie’s best scenes. The ending is most uplifting, almost having me dancing on my chair. Of course the eponymous song has to feature somewhere in all its pumping pomp. In ‘Gloria’ there’s unrestrained sex and nudity to be had as well, but as a paean to the pitfalls of love in the autumn years it provides a reality check – no saccharine Hollywood ending here.

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No film exactly set the world alight, but each, in its own way, shook off the condescending tweeness that can afflict offerings of this ilk. In two of the three they weren’t afraid of depicting bedroom scenes and in all, even in the autumn of our years, they prove there are still glorious days to be had.
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