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Thursday, 14 April 2016

Young at Heart - Barrie Pattison checks out a unique festival and discovers a special Lily Tomlin performance

Lets note in passing that in with the cascading film festivals we get “Young at Heart.” It  claims to its followers and sponsors to be an event for oldies and, not wanting them out after dark, runs in the day time sessions of a couple of Sydney Palace theatres. I did notice a few individuals of child bearing age making their way there though.

The schedule is mainly films that are slated for early release  but they have in the past retrieved a few significant titles that seems to have passed us by, Doris Dörrie’s superior Kirschblüten-Hanami/Cherry Blossoms (Germany, 2008) notably.

This year’s line up included Father’s and Daughters the new US-made Gabriele Muccino weepy with its strong cast - Russell Crowe, Jane Fonda, Bruce Greenwood, Diane Kruger, her perfect features used in contrast to her unsympathetic character, along with less familiar players Octavia Spencer and Aaron Paul. They acquit themselves well but all the attention goes to the loving photography of Amanda Seyfried, every imperfection in her minimally made up skin adoringly filmed in screen filling close up. She plays the daughter of unstable author Crowe under pressure from all sides in a custody action. Production values are excellent but we can’t help looking at Muccino’s films and thinking how much better his Italian work was.

And while we’re thinking Italy there’s the new Nanni Moretti Mia Madre (Italy, 2015) with ever welcome Margharita Buy as a movie director trying to keep her new workers’ rights production on the rails while her mother sinks into a last illness. Temperamental imported star John Turturro ratchets up the pressure. Mia Madre is clearly it’s celebrity director’s work. He appears and there’s even a scene of showing the daughter how to ride a motor scooter but the mix of serious and farcical is uneasy and even tedious in places. It leaves us longing for something closer to his Il Caimano (Italy, 2006).

They also managed to slide in the new Hirokazu Kore-eda, yet another Isabelle Huppert
and a look at the Brando Streetcar Named Desire among a baker’s dozen programs but
the mother lode was Grandma (Paul Weitz, USA, 2015).

Weitz has come some distance since his American Pie (Chris& Paul Weitz, USA, 1999) and the new film, a great show case for his seventy five year old star Lily Tomlin, is funny and genuinely involving.  Lily has just broken up with Judy Greer who she dismisses as a postscript to a decades long relationship with a woman of her own age. Lily’s turned her credit cards into a mobile and is sitting back waiting for a royalties cheque when her grand daughter shows up trying to get the cost of her abortion out of granny. This one turns into a one day road movie as they work through associates who are also a history of her life.

There’s a heavy dose of ideology in there. All the men we see are contemptible - cafe proprietor John Cho, Garner’s characterless boy friend Nat Wolff with his bank roll in his sock drawer, dad Frank Collison and ex-husband Sam Elliot, even though the script and the actor sweat on filling out his role. The women are given a better innings with Greer, Lauren Tom (the voice of Amy in Futurama) and Marcia Gay Harden getting waves of sympathy, even if we do have Elizabeth Peña and mother and daughter Pro-life protesters copping a serve too.

Despite a three week shoot and limited ambitions this one deserves more attention than
it’s getting in fringe events. It would be nice to see it in the multiplexes where it might or
might not find its proper audience.

The Young at Heart lot talk about taking their show on the road to eighty locations. Not
the least interesting question is what do the organisers do to mount an event where the
concession seat price is less than half what their heavy hitter competitors demand. Those
operators use volunteers and pre-sold product too.  Where does the money go?

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