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November 18, 2015

Late Bloomers

by Franz Patrick


Late Bloomers (2011)
★ / ★★★★

When Mary (Isabella Rossellini) experiences a sudden memory loss, it struck her that old age is right around the bend. She sees a doctor, fearing that it might be a symptom of dementia, but tests suggest that she is healthy. She is told to lead to a more physically active life so she joins a gym. Meanwhile, Adam (William Hurt), Mary’s husband, gets more immersed in his work as an architect. He is hired to build a nursing home but he feels the need to construct a museum. In his attempt to accomplish both, he and wife’s relationship begins to crumble in an unfathomable rate.

Though the material is led by very experienced actors who remain interesting to watch from beginning to end, “Late Bloomers,” written by Olivier Dazat and Julie Gavras, feels too flat at its worst and a silly romp at its best. The crux of the story is a marriage that is rotting from the inside and yet it does not spend enough time with its main players to inspire us to really understand them as people. A lot of what is seen is behavior.

To shake up the gloom, some comedy is forced into its bones. They are easy stereotypes. For instance, when Mary gets a tour for a potential job, all the paid workers are young and all the volunteers are of a certain age. It would have been funny if something unexpected had been coupled with the would-be joke. Alas, the punchline, if one is generous and decides to call it that, is Mary’s paranoia that she, someone who is about to turn sixty, has no place in society. A lot of the scenes go on like this. They are interminable.

Mary and Adam’s problems is supposed to suggest a human story, one that ought to be relatable, but it is approached very systematically. The first part focuses on Mary’s fears and then our attention is turned to Adam’s temptations. Afterwards, it is onto their three grown children, cardboard cutouts of real people. James (Aidan McArdle) is uptight, Giulia (Kate Ashfield) is calm and level-headed, and Benjamin (Luke Treadaway) is an artist who is all over the place. Not once did I buy them as a family.

Although they are limited by the screenplay, Rossellini and Hurt try their best to mold their characters into real people. When these two actors share a scene, even their pauses generate electricity in the air. When Rossellini gives a certain look, it is often a mixture: of sadness and anger, of disappointment and shame. When Hurt hesitates to bridge the distance between Adam and Mary, we feel his character forcing it for the sake of not having a confrontation that might turn their relationship worse than before. So then how does it get better?

Directed by Julie Gavras, it is strange that “Late Bloomers” does not aspire to be great even though it is equipped with great actors. Movies about old age mixed with marriages on the rocks have been done better. This one is barely a footnote, it is invisible.

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