20 January 2016

Elsa & Fred (starring Christopher Plummer and Shirley MacLaine)

I didn’t really know what to expect of this film, but it has an all-star cast, and Amazon recommended it to me as a gentle light romance. So it went on my wish-list and I was given it for Christmas. I realised that it was about an elderly couple, as the main title roles are played by Christopher Plummer and Shirley MacLaine, but I think it’s a positive move that films are being made about those both in middle age and well beyond it.

The story starts as we meet Fred’s rather bossy daughter, who is helping him to move into a small apartment. He was widowed some months before the story opens, but although he’s not really grieving, he’s a bit lonely, and quite a hypochondriac. His daughter arranges for someone to cook, clean and provide company for him, but he’s cantankerous and prefers to spend his days in bed…

Then his neighbour Elsa comes into his life. She’s lively and imaginative, although we quickly realise that she has a habit of embellishing the truth, or even making up stories entirely to suit her purposes. She’s a dreamer, but she and Fred soon become friends…

It would be hard to say more without spoilers. It’s not a fast-moving plot, nor is it particularly original. But it’s nicely done with touches of humour here and there, and I found it mostly very engaging. I can’t say I particularly liked Shirley MacLaine’s character; I felt it would have been better played by one of the other well-known actresses in their early 80s, but on the whole the pairing works, and it’s a nice back-to-front touch that their younger offspring were the ones worrying about them, telling them what they should and shouldn’t do, and generally disapproving.

Since I associate Christopher Plummer primarily with ‘The Sound of Music’, I found myself expecting him to break into ‘Edelweiss’ when he picked up a guitar… and there was a bit of cognitive dissonance when Scott Bakula appeared as Elsa’s reliable accountant son; I’ve only known him as the star of the lengthy ‘Quantum Leap’ series. But he was believable, as was his artist brother, whereas I had a hard time believing in Fred’s controlling and unpleasant daughter and son-in-law.

Rated 12, which I suppose is about right; I did notice one instance of ‘strong’ language, and perhaps a couple of minor words, and there are several implied bedroom scenes, although nothing at all explicit. I’m a little surprised it’s not PG from the legal point of view, but the storyline would be of no interest to a child, or even a teenager; indeed, I wouldn’t really recommend it to anyone under the age of about forty.

The ending is bittersweet, as was inevitable almost from the start, but nicely done. Overall it made a pleasant evening’s viewing even if there wasn’t much that was memorable or thought-provoking.

Review by copyright 2016 Sue's DVD Reviews

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