Elsa and Fred: Movie Review
Cast: Shirley MacLaine, Christopher Plummer, Marcia Gay Harden, Chris Noth, Scott Bakula, George Segal
Director: Michael Radford
Relying heavily on imagery from La Dolce Vita, Elsa and Fred's a remake of an Argentinian film of the same name.
An irascible and easily irritated Plummer plays Fred, a recent widower who's been moved into an apartment block in New Orleans amid concerns from his daughter (Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden). Unhappy at this turn of events and wanting to keep himself to himself with daily vigils with depression in his bed, Fred's life is interrupted by widower-from-across-the-hall Elsa (MacLaine in twinkly eyed OAP mode).
Insisting he try gently heading back on the steps to some kind of life, Fred's gradually coaxed out of his early grave and finds himself dipping his toes back into love as well...
Elsa and Fred negotiates the mediocrity of its genre and the predictability of its late-in-life-love plot thanks to the chemistry between Plummer and MacLaine; theirs is a relationship which glows with the familiarity of time and proves pleasantly sweet as the broader comedy elements blossom around them.
With Elsa's mantra that she will "show Fred the path to life", Plummer's forced to dial down some of his earlier cantankerousness and barbed comments to his daughter and her (one-dimensional) husband who are pillorying him for his cash for an investment. Which is a welcome respite because Radford's film offers little in the way of originality and fails to veer away from cliche as the frailties of old age bubble away in the background.
Tonally, there are a few shifts which come out of nowhere (including a brutally abrupt ending that jars while avoiding the inevitability of what's coming) as the film relocates to Rome in its final sprint to pay full homage to the promise it's made to Anita Ekberg's waterside seduction.
It's not that Elsa and Fred is a terrible movie - it gets by on the charm of the leads on the slightest of scripts as time goes by and it will fly with certain older sectors of the audience who are perhaps somewhat sidelined by the lack of films such as this. But some terrible acting (step forward the over-mugging Chris Noth as the son-in-law desperate to secure the investment) and some verging on racial stereotyping of ethnic home helps, and parts of this pleasant souffle leave a sour taste in your mouth.
Elsa and Fred may be romantic fantasy for the silver-haired generation, and while the Hollywood machine's to be commended for bringing an OAP love story to life, it ends up being forgettable and flouncy the moment the lights have gone back up.