Rated PG-13. Running time: 1 hour 32 min.
Our content ratings: Violence 0; Language 2; Sex/Nudity 4.
Our star rating (1-5): 4
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted
Ever since she played Bull Meechum’s long suffering wife in The Geat Santini I have been a fan of Blythe Danner. She shows that she can still light up a screen in director Brett Haley’s new twilight of life romantic comedy. Her Carol Peterson is a 71-year-old retired widow with great memories of her husband killed in an airplane crash 20 years ago. She lives in Southern California in a home with a swimming pool. Carol enjoys playing bridge with three friends (June Squibb, Rhea Pearlman, and Mary Kay Place)–well most of the time, except when try to convince her to move into their retirement community.
She has a grown daughter, Kat (Malin Akerman), who lives so far away that they don’t see each other very often. After Lloyd (Martin Starr), her pool maintenance man, helps her with a rat problem in her kitchen the two become, in his words, “drinking buddies.” A somewhat aimless young man still living with his mother, he notices on her mantle a picture taken when she once sang with a band. He is impressed, revealing that he has sung with an amateur band and tried his hand at writing songs. At his invitation they visit his favorite karaoke bar. His slightly off-key song earns tepid applause, but her plaintive rendition of “Cry Me a River” evokes loud applause from everyone.
A lesser film might have followed from here the familiar arc of a winter-springtime romance, but thanks to the fine screenplay by Marc Basch, Bill (Sam Elliott) injects himself into her life. A man of Carol’s age, he had first complimented her while she was in a pharmacy reading the labels on medicine bottles. After seeing each other on another occasion at a distance, he had struck up a conversation in the parking lot, at the end of which he gained her telephone number. There follows a couple of dates, one of them on a yacht into which he had poured most of his life-savings. It now appears that they need not spend their future years alone. Carol’s friends, of course are delighted.
However, again the film veers away from its expected course, this time Carol’s grown daughter Kat coming back into the life of her mother. It is a time when Carol needs the love and support of someone close. The two speak to each other’s hearts in a poignant way. It is a bit sad to see that neither seem to be aware of anything or anyone beyond this world. Like a great many Hollywood films, the worldview of the filmmakers and their characters is a secular one: we are here alone, and we make or lose our happiness by ourselves. Each of them could benefit from a mustard seed of faith.
Lloyd also re-enters Carol’s life, showing up with a song that he has written. It is this song, and not Gus Kahn’s 1924 classic that gives the picture its name.
This review with a set of discussion questions will be in the June issue of Visual Parables. A subscription to the journal will also give you access to Lectionary Links, a feature for preachers that links a film to one or more lessons from the Common Lectionary.