I was drawn to Late Bloomers (2011) a drama with humor starring William Hurt and Isabella Rossellini, by the caliber of its two stars. I've been a fan of Hurt's film work since the early 1980s, and Rossellini, well, I admire her as an actress, too, but also consider her one of the great beauties of recent decades, arguably even more beautiful than her famous mother, Ingrid Bergman, who wasn't exactly chopped liver herself.
Rossellini was pushing 60 when she made Late Bloomers, and though a bit heavier, a lot more wrinkled but mercifully showing no signs of plastic surgery, she's aging with incredible grace and, in once sense, is no less beautiful at 60 than she was at 25. In the movie Hurt and Rossellini play a couple coming to grips with growing older. It's a struggle, just as it's a struggle for not-much-younger moviegoers like myself who've followed these actors for decades come to terms with the fact that now they're nearly old enough to collect Social Security.
The movie is slight but observant, alternately funny and wistful. It's also emblematic of the kind of crazy financing smaller-scale dramas like these must now resort to. Though almost entirely in English, Late Bloomers is primarily a French production with some Belgian and British financing. Hurt, an American, plays an Englishman (with a barely-perceptible accent) while most of the supporting cast is British.
Olive Films acquired the picture from Gaumont, the French distributor, and its high-def transfer is up to contemporary standards. No real extras, but the disc does include a trailer for this and other art house-type Olive titles.
Adam (Hurt) is an architect receiving a prestigious lifetime achievement award, mainly for an innovative Copenhagen airport he designed 30 years before. His firm, however, isn't doing well, and reluctantly they accept a commission to design a streamlined, cost-conscious retirement community.
His wife, Mary (Rossellini), a retired schoolteacher, tries to stay active but when she volunteers her time she finds that her charity organization employers are condescending and interested only in exploiting their volunteers' free labor and experience. A swimming-aerobics class she tries has no interest in accommodating anyone older and less fit than its young and energetic clientele. Depressed, she begins fitting her home with senior-friendly handgrips for the bathtub and large-type telephones.
Adam resists growing older by spearheading a bid on a high-profile adjunct museum to the Louvre. Working late into the night with his young staff he discovers energy drinks and takes to wearing a younger man's fashions. All this strains his relationship with Mary, who's initially determined to pull him in the other direction, of accepting his aging, though both are tempted into affairs with significantly younger partners.
The movie is slight but essentially honest and smart unlike, say, the unpardonably phony and condescending but popular The Bucket List. I can certainly testify to its authenticity, having suffered almost exactly the same humiliation Mary does at that swim-aerobics class, and under similar circumstances. (Mine was an aerobics class where everyone but me seemed to be a 20-year-old professional dancer personally tutored by Bob Fosse.)
The film has a good supporting cast, with Joanna Lumley as Mary's friend, Simon Callow as the retirement home builder, and the great character comedian Leslie Philips, who turns up briefly as a confidant of Mary's Italian mother (Doreen Mantle). And there's a lively, unexpectedly cheery score by Sodi Marcizewer. At 95 minutes, Late Bloomers doesn't belabor its points and ends on a satisfyingly realistic note.
Video & Audio
Filmed in three-perf Super 35 and presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, Late Bloomers is up to contemporary high-def standards, which fine color, contrast, and sharp detail throughout. The DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio, available both in English and French-dubbed (with no subtitle options), is also very good. The Region A disc has no Extra Features unless you count the trailer for this and a batch of other Olive releases.
Modest but very enjoyable, Late Bloomers is Recommended.
Stuart Galbraith IV is a Kyoto-based film historian whose work includes film history books, DVD and Blu-ray audio commentaries and special features. Visit Stuart's Cine Blogarama here.