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SENIORS IN THE MOVIES: The Rise of the Olds

Watching movies continues to be a magnificent parade of senior thespians in major big-screen roles. It would seem that boardroom executives are listening to their demographic researchers. As Shelley Fralic (Vancouver Sun, 2015-01-15) puts it “They care a lot more about where the money is.” And that is right here, Seniors!

Grandma (2015) stars Lily Tomlin, age 76, as the foul-mouthed, road-tripping lesbian granny Elle, poet and sometime professor, in this comedy-drama. Is the movie blunt? Yes, and it is proof that grandparents in film can cast off the rocking chair and actually take risks. I loved the outrageous behaviour, the feisty relationship between grandma and her teenage granddaughter Sage, who is diffident and a little adrift. Elle may fall down, but she can get up just fine. The film is a feminist comedy disguised as an intergenerational road trip: they need cash. It is also a portrait of grief, Elle mourns the loss of her partner of 30 years, Vi, whose relatively recent death casts a long shadow over Elle’s daily routines. Elle’s daughter Judy enters into the script, a driven, disciplined professional. Paul Weitz, the director, treats them all with an unforced fondness, and his sentimental tendencies are balanced by Ms. Tomlin’s peppery honesty.

The Intern (2015) portrays Robert De Niro (age 72) as a retired well-off widower living in a beautiful brownstone in Brooklyn, NY, whose street scenes and interiors are meticulously filmed by director, Nancy Meyers. The film is soothing, genuinely enjoyable and likable. De Niro plays Ben Whittaker, bored with his life after retirement, who applies for the job of “senior intern” at an e-commerce concern called “About The Fit.” The founding CEO is Jules Ostin, played by Anne Hathaway, a highly-driven entrepreneurial type. The comedy is sane, sweet and smart, and a lot of the time, actually funny. De Niro is convincing in his perfection, he is the kind of guy you love being around. Take an hour and a half to enjoy this delightful film.

Seymour: An Introduction (2015) is a sublime, exquisite documentary about Seymour Bernstein, age 88, pianist, composer, teacher, philosopher and ultimate New Yorker. I was spellbound by the man, his words of wisdom, his music and his environment, that is, New York City at its best. After 81 minutes, I wanted to meet the man and continue the conversation. Mr.Bernstein dazzles, whether he is alone at the piano, teaching students in his cozily appointed oneroom apartment or holding a master class. A pianist from his youth, he gained praise and admirers, only to give up his public career when he was 50, in order to devote himself to composing and teaching. Ethan Hawke, the director of the film and frequent interviewer of Seymour, allows his subject to radiate wisdom and knowledge as he speaks slowly and clearly, in almost perfect paragraphs. “This documentary is about truth, but not only projected to an art form, but into the process of life.”

Mr. Holmes (2015) is a gracious period piece with Ian McKellen (age 76) as a nonagenarian Sherlock Holmes. The actor states “I’m thinking about a man simply trying to survive and hold onto his memories and discovering himself.” Holmes devotes himself to beekeeping. More and more, he is stung by lapses of memory, each of them marked in his diary with a rueful dot. He recently had travelled to Japan in search of plant with rejuvenating powers. One case, from his past, is a cause of particular vexation—there are several overlapping stories. Mr. McKellen’s performance is wonderful, even when the viewer is puzzled. No worry. Beyond the vignettes we are witnessing, lies the untold story of a great, complex soul, a man more mysterious than any of the crimes he is supposed to have solved. I enjoyed the superb acting, the English scenery, the dapper clothes and the diction of Mr. Holmes.

Creed (2015) is a movie written and directed by Sylvester Stallone (age 69), the latest incarnation of Rocky Balboa (40 years after Rocky). Stallone’s acting, as manager of a young fighter, the son of his last opponent, is superb. You do not have to like boxing to enjoy this dynamic, award-winning movie.

By: Dolores Luber