Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Catching Up: Guys Getting Older

I don't see as many dramas as I used to. There was a stage in my movie viewing life, when I was pretty deep in the perceived snob era, where I saw little else worth viewing but for dramas and foreign flicks.  Oh, I was still a closeted genre watcher but there was so very very little that I could say was good.  Now I rather find myself white washing everything with the not-so-good brush or more accurately, not that impressive to me, whether drama or comedy or action or foreign or thriller.

But there are movies that I know I want to see.  I wanted to see The Descendants (2011, Alexander Payne) in the theatre but it escaped me.  It sat on my HDD for ages before I spontaneously put it on one evening.  That may not sound like much but you don't see what it takes for me to put on anything other than toss-away genre and action flicks these days.  When I could be watching movies I actually want to see, I always end up re-watching Netflix Nick Cage movies (Next) or one of my disaster movies (2012).

I like when Clooney does a flick where he is not the Sexiest Man of the Year.  Here he is the dad of two, wearing his grey hair and his flip flops and not a really decent outfit in his closet.  This is not dapper Las Vegas Clooney or even clean and even hitman Clooney.  This is why I like the man; that he is not afraid to play a very deflated version of himself.

It is a light movie but not a light subject.  His wife has been injured and lies in a coma when he finds out she has been in an affair with a local real estate celebrity.  Well, if having your face on a bus poster makes you a celebrity.  Clooney's Matt King is a bit of a celebrity himself, if you consider descended from Hawaiian royalty as celebrity status. He and his family own a massive amount of untouched land and live off trust money, though none as carefully as Matt.  Most just want Matt to finish a big land deal and give them their share of the money.

So, Matt is left dealing with his wife's impending death, his children's reactions to it all and his squabbling family afairs.  Life is not easy even when you are living in paradise.  The movie sweet and touching and generally enjoyable and I got to experience something I enjoy about movies set in paradises -- what it looks like in an average life, instead of all beaches and resort life. Clooney is allowed a sobre role where he is a father and simple man experiencing hard circumstances with dignity despite slapping flip flops.

Michael Caine has been a guy getting older for quite some time of my movie watching life.  I never really got to experience him as the young, vibrant guy of the 60s and 70s.  But Harry Brown (2009, Daniel Barber) is one where he is not a guy getting older, but an old guy.  An ex-military man living in the project towers of London, a widower and living a quiet life of not much more than his old friends (those who are left) and a local pub.  This is the part of getting old that is never glamorous; when everyone else has moved on and you are just biding your time.

Bided time is interrupted by the violent death of his one last pub mate at the hands of hoodie wearing thugs who terrorize the whole project unchecked.  Harry tries to absorb it, let it pass but enough is enough and he resurrects his past skills, to play vigilante.  That is when we see it is not age that slows people down but how society treats you.  If you are thought of as useless then you end up playing useless.  Scary that what makes Harry useful are the local actually, truly wastes of life that plague his community. We are not expected to have sympathy for those he kills but we are left a bit unnerved by how good he is at it. Makes you wonder what Taken 5 will be like when Liam Neeson carries his particular set of skills to the pensioner home.

And then we actually went to see a sweet movie about real people getting old.  The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011, John Madden) is a British comedy about a number of aging brits who end up together in a hotel in India.  No, not a nice resort where the experience the beauty and exotic nature that India has to offer to people brought up on A Passage to India but a small run down hotel re-opened by the owner as a ... well, a pensioner home.  For one reason or another each of our seniors are forced into this cost effective choice that leaves much to be desired.

Each and every one of the "seniors" being played in this movie are not people I ever perceived as old.  Oh I know they are all aging actors but I never saw them play roles where their age impacts the character.  Maggie Smith was in Harry Potter and Dame Judy Dench has been M for a while.  Bil Nighy was an aging rockstar in Love Actually and Penelope Wilton was Harriet Jones in Doctor Who.  And Tom Wilkinson seems to be always playing mature politicians or bureaucratic roles.  But none of these people are what I would call old and feeble.

Dev Patel brings them together in something they never really expected.  His never ending enthusiasm bolstered by deception and sometimes downright delusion keeps everybody on course, but for a few disheartened, to realize a next stage in their lives.  Some find love, some find purpose and others find closure.  Each plays a character who considers themselves as aged but they all end up living more of a life than I probably am at 45.  Perception is the rule.