(2008) Romance (Monterey Media) Martin Landau, Ellen Burstyn, Elizabeth Banks, Adam Scott, Sean Tillmann, Kali Cook, Christopher Why, M. Michele Phillips, Christine Dixon, Mary Douglass, Scott Beehner, Todd Fink, Leo Fitzpatrick, Jules Blight, Candice Rose. Directed by Nicholas Fackler
Old age can sometimes mean loneliness. Husbands or wives pass away. Relationships, for whatever reason, end. We find ourselves with a whole lot of time and nobody to share it with. This is particularly difficult during the holidays.
Robert Malone (Landau) is in that kind of spot. He works in a grocery store, as much to fill his time as to support himself. He is a lonely man who as Christmas approaches wraps up Christmas gifts for himself. His boss Mike (Scott) may well be his only friend.
One day he comes home to find his new neighbor Mary (Burstyn) in his living room – apparently he’d left his door open when he left for work. Far from being angry or upset, he is intrigued by the woman and feels doors opening in his heart that have been shut for a very long time.
Despite the misgivings of Mary’s daughter Alex (Banks) Robert and Mary begin dating and it is almost fairy-tale sweet. Robert is happier than he’s been since he can remember. As Christmas approaches he is eager to spend it with someone for the first time.
But it isn’t all holly and ivy. Robert is having odd dreams that are maddeningly indistinct but seem to have some sort of intense meaning to him. But what do they mean? And what do they have to do with Mary?
This is Fackler’s first feature film and all alliteration aside, it’s a pretty good one for a first go. He gets the benefit of two Oscar winners who give him a good performance in roles that are pretty decently written and allow the actors to let their natural charisma and charm show through. Burstyn is particularly charming but Landau inhabits his role nicely.
This is the kind of movie that can easily cross the line from charm to schmaltz and it does so several times, but not often enough to really be a problem. However, the problem here is that it takes a nice twist ending and telegraphs it a bit too broadly so that anybody can see it coming and does it in a way that’s really unnecessary. By resisting temptation to hit you over the head with clues about what’s coming they might have had a really excellent film.
As it is it’s decent enough, mainly due to the performances of all four of the leads. This is one of those sad cases where the filmmakers underestimated the ability of their audience to follow along and be intuitive to the direction of the plot. It’s necessary to respect your audience to go where you’re headed rather than lead them by the nose to where you want them to be. The former makes for a satisfied, grateful audience. The other just pisses ’em off.
WHY RENT THIS: Sweet and touching performances by Landau and Burstyn. Nice twist.
WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: A bit predictable in places and the twist, which is a good one, is telegraphed a bit too much.
FAMILY VALUES: While there are a few mildly bad words here and there, mostly it is the adult themes of aging and romance that might be too much for younger kids to handle.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The movie was mostly filmed in Nebraska and the score written by members of the acclaimed Omaha indie rock group Bright Eyes.
NOTABLE HOME VIDEO EXTRAS: There are interviews with the four main cast members.
BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $233,083 on an unreported production budget; it is unlikely the movie made much if any profit.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Away From Her
FINAL RATING: 5.5/10
NEXT: Notting Hill