Adam (William Hurt) is a London-based architect horrified to find himself the recipient of an award that suggests he's reached the end of his career, while wife Mary (Isabella Rossellini), taken aback by an unexpected health scare, sets a course of radical action in league with her vivacious best friend Charlotte (Joanna Lumley). As Adam and Mary respond to these challenges in completely opposite and unpredictable ways while successfully infuriating each other in the process, their three adult children plot to find ways to keep them together...

1 Jan 2009 - 12:00 AM  UPDATED 1 Jan 2009 - 12:00 AM

Getting old ain’t fun in this dreary comedy drama.

Lord knows few filmmakers have been willing to tackle the themes of how getting old, wrinkled and weary while contemplating one’s mortality can affect the individual and his or her loved ones. So although Julie Gavras’ film might have been a refreshing take on a long-married, middle-aged couple undergoing a late-life crisis, the result is a comedy-drama that’s depressingly superficial, corny and entirely predictable. In short, Late Bloomers is blooming awful.

The screenplay by the French director (daughter of the esteemed Costa-Gavras) and Oliver Dazat puts the talented cast through some highly improbable hoops so the film rarely rings true, the laughs are scant, the dialogue drones on and the melodrama is mushy.

William Hurt and Isabella Rossellini play the London-based Adam and Mary, who seem to be a conventionally happy couple with an active sex life. (An early bedroom romp happens under the covers, setting a bland, unsexy, PG-rated tone.)

He’s an award-winning architect whose best work – designing airports – is well in the past and he’s struggling for relevance, so he embarks on two projects simultaneously: a museum in London’s disused Battersea Power Station, and a luxurious hospice funded by an overbearing, sleazy real estate mogul (Simon Callow, in an outrageously over-the-top caricature).

She’s a retired teacher who’s pushing 60 and pals around with her best friend Charlotte (Joanna Lumley, in a slight variation of her Absolutely Fabulous persona), an avowed 'grey panther" who declaims mostly in epithets such as 'bollocks." Conveniently living next door is Mary’s rude, feisty mother Nora (Doreen Mantle), whose antics and acid tongue are painfully unfunny.

After Mary suffers temporary memory loss she fears, wrongly, this may be the onset of dementia, takes up aquarobics (one of the film’s few genuinely funny sequences) and suddenly notices her wrinkles and gets upset when random males no longer ogle her. Adam’s too preoccupied with his work and a dalliance with an attractive young architect named Maya (Arta Dobroshi) to pay much attention to his wife’s angst. However, the poor fellow flares up when she buys a phone with an outsized dialling pad and installs hand rails in the bathroom, sending her into the arms of the manager of her fitness club.

Naturally, all this raises concerns with the couple’s three adult children (all are so thinly sketched and forgettable it’s not worth identifying the characters or the actors) who do their darndest to try to repair the marriage.

The resolution will surprise no one.

Hurt acts crabby, self-centred, guilty and dejected, all without nuance, and his accent wanders back and forth across the Atlantic; mostly he speaks in his normal voice and then switches to a Pommy accent.

Rossellini is a class act but her character’s behaviour is often inexplicable and the script’s blatant contrivances rob both actors of their dignity.

The music is jaunty, with brass instruments frequently tootling away which sometimes doesn’t match the mood of ennui, and too many scenes are pointless or needlessly strung-out.

A French/UK/Belgian co-production, it’s Gavras’ second feature following Blame it on Fidel in 2006, unseen by this reviewer.

Judging by this limp, undistinguished offering it’s tempting to say Julie doesn’t have her father’s flair or narrative strengths.


1 hour 30 min
In Cinemas 23 February 2012,
Wed, 06/20/2012 - 11