Reviews & More: Age-Defying Films

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Pictured, from left: Diane Keaton, Candace Bergen, Jane Fonda and Mary Steenburgen in “Book Club”

The target audience for “Book Club” is female and past middle age, and while I am certainly both female and age-appropriate, I found the film somewhat silly and often condescending. Granted, it does touch on some pertinent points about aging—marriages grown stale, retirees facing empty days with some fear, feeling less attractive as bodies sag and more—but it touches on them so briefly that it’s not enough to give the film any real emotional heft. Okay, then, it’s “fluff” and “a pleasant diversion” and there is definitely a place for that in our lives. Certainly, the couple I met in the elevator to the parking lot seemed to think so: They enjoyed it enormously. But this reviewer wasn’t charmed. For me, it was a sad commentary that four gifted actresses—Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candace Bergen and Mary Steenburgen—were given a script that had them giggling over “50 Shades of Gray” and having that book be the catalyst for all four to make some changes in their lives, most of which felt artificial. The scenes with the four of them felt awkward, as though they were trying to find the relaxed rhythm of old friends but couldn’t quite get there. Script? Directing? Personality clashes? Diane Keaton, especially, seemed uncomfortable, and all those verbal hesitations and tics we found so charming in her early work have codified into habits that are simply annoying to watch. Only Mary Steenburgen and Craig Nelson as her husband were able to connect emotionally for me and they are made to go through a really silly Viagra-themed subplot. To sum up: For this particular member of the aging female demographic, good fluff requires some emotional underpinning that makes me connect with the characters, fine acting and a script that sings, even a little bit. “Book Club” doesn’t fill the bill. 

Speaking of age-appropriate, I took my nine-year-old grandson to see “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and when it was over I asked him if he enjoyed it. Not given to excess verbal communication, Simon’s reply was an enthusiastic thumbs up. How did grandma feel? After the first 20 minutes of the smoke and shadows of battles fought by combatants that gave us no hint as to who we were supposed to root for, the truth is I kind of liked it. More than I expected to, for sure; word of mouth has not been great. No, Alden Ehrenreich does not physically resemble a young Harrison Ford as Han Solo, nor does Donald Glover seem like a youthful version of Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian, but both have the right attitudes, especially Ehrenreich. What endeared us to Han Solo in the early Star Wars films (meaning those released in the late 1970s) was the fact that he was outwardly hardened and cynical but there was a heart in there that could be accessed, and when it was his inner softie was revealed. So it is with young Han Solo, who is not yet deeply cynical but cocky and often foolish, as young men can be before life gets to them. Woody Harrelson offers fine support as an out-for-himself thief and Paul Bettany is so very good—when is he ever bad?—as a scarred, vicious villain. I enjoyed learning how the friendship between Solo and Chewbacca began, and Emilia Clarke is lovely and compelling as Solo’s youthful lover turned quasi-enemy. Oh, and the special effects were just fine, as they always seem to be in films these days. Isn’t that an interesting outcome of the computer age—that we expect special effects to be good and are no longer awestruck by them? So, this grandma’s take on “Solo: A Star Wars Story” is that it’s a perfectly good origin film, and a much more pleasant way to pass the time on a rainy day than “The Book Club”—which most likely means I am not an age-appropriate target audience for either.