A shorthand description of the 2011 comedy All Together would be this: it's The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, spoken in French. You have my permission to use that at your next cocktail party.
Summing up a film in a Twitter-sized morsel is cool and all, even though it does a disservice to something like All Together, a breezy, somewhat lightweight effort which dares to portray people in their sixties and seventies as vibrant human beings. That concept alone elevates the film above its episodic (but enjoyable) story and timid direction. The film also offers the chance to see non-French actresses Jane Fonda and Geraldine Chaplin speaking in a foreign language (and doing pretty well at it).
All Together, which was originally issued under the more descriptive title Et Si On Vivait Tous Ensemble? (What About Living All Together?), concerns a group of five people who have been close friends since the 1960s. The group includes two married couples who are starting to feel the strain of being empty nesters with too much time together, Jeanne (Jane Fonda) and husband Albert (Pierre Richard), along with Annie (Geraldine Chaplin) and husband Jean (Guy Bedos). The circle also includes confirmed bachelor Claude (Claude Rich), a widower photographer who prefers the company of local prostitutes.
Although it works as a breezy comedy, All Together seems to have a more sober subtext with all the characters facing transitions in their lives with varied levels of acceptance. As the film opens, Fonda's Jeanne has been diagnosed with cancer. Although she takes it in stride, she refuses to reveal the severity of her condition to her friends or even her husband Albert, an introspective writer who is going through the early stages of dementia. Meanwhile, political activist Jean grumbles that his protestations are no longer being taken seriously coming from a graying man pushing the age of seventy. The laid-back, happy-go-lucky Claude seems to be the only group member without any serious problems, until a sudden heart attack sends him to the hospital. With Claude no longer able to care for himself, his adult son Bernard (Bernard Malaka) decides to move him to a home for the aged (which doesn't go over well with Claude or his old friends).
Geraldine Chaplin's Annie is the most stable, nurturing member of the group, a deceptively passive woman who serves as catalyst for the film's main plot device when she suggests having the other members of the group move into her and Jean's cavernous home. Despite Jean's reservations, the plan works out swimmingly - the new roomies also include Dirk (Daniel Brühl), a young German ethnology student whom Jeanne and Albert hired to care for their dog. It's also Annie's idea to replace Jean's beloved yet neglected garden with a new swimming pool that the couple's grandchildren can enjoy. As the setting for the film's heated climax involving a revelation that some of the friends shared a long-ago affair, the pool serves as a metaphor for the characters confronting the inevitable changes taking place around them.
With All Together, director-screenwriter Stéphane Robelin has crafted a wise, lighthearted film that manages to appeal to people outside the demographic of its lead characters. One doesn't necessarily have to be of retirement age to identify with their struggles. As a screenwriter, Robelin did well with the characters, even if the plot seems to be too episodic and scattershot at times. His direction is competent enough, but several scenes came across as lightweight, even reticent, when they could have used a more intimate touch. I did appreciate the performances, however, especially Fonda's turn as the self-assured yet vulnerable Jeanne. If her speaking voice fails to sound persuasively French (the script dodges her wonky accent by having Jeanne be an American who moved to France as a teenager), her performance adds some emotional heft to a film in which many of the characters seem defined by a bunch of quirks and little else. She's especially great in the scenes with Daniel Brühl's Dirk, in which Jeanne excitedly shares the details of her own sex life with frank, funny candor.
The 35mm photography used on All Together is given a good presentation by Kino Lorber for its DVD edition of the film. The slightly letterboxed 1.85:1 image has a slight bit of grain, but the detailing is nice and warm, escaping being overly "digital" looking. The highlights are fine; shadows are somewhat inky but acceptable.
The film's French-language soundtrack, presented in nicely mixed stereo, counts as the only audio option on this disc. It's a pleasant listen with clear dialogue and subtle use of music. Although the DVD's English subtitles appear to be digitally added like on normal foreign-language discs, the subtitle track is burned onto the film image itself (not necessarily a deal-breaker, but something potential buyers of this disc need to know).
A Stills Gallery and Theatrical Trailer are the only extras supporting the film itself. Trailers for other Kino Lorber releases round out the bonus content
Don't be swayed by the generic title; All Together is a saucy, enjoyable comedy about a group of aging friends who confront medical maladies, waning libidoes and lifestyle changes with grace and good humor. There are a few issues with director-screenwriter Stéphane Robelin's choices, but overall it's a warm and knowing look at a subject which doesn't get explored often enough in filmdom. Jane Fonda delivers a terrific performance, as well. Recommended.
Matt Hinrichs is a designer, artist and sometime writer who lives in sunny (and usually too hot) Phoenix, Arizona. Among his loves are oranges, going barefoot and blonde 1930s movie comedienne Joyce Compton. Since 2000, he has been scribbling away at Pop Culture weblog Scrubbles.net. One can also follow him on Twitter @4colorcowboy.