[This post originally appeared at Time Goes By, written by Ronni Bennett. Thanks to Ronni for allowing me to reprint it here.]
Not infrequently, I grumble out loud around here about how few roles, especially major roles, there are in film for elder actors. Our generation doesn’t get much representation on what in our youth was called the silver screen.
But not so in 2015. As the year-end round-ups of the arts are being published, it is gratifying to see how many of our contemporaries have been not only getting work but in some cases being nominated for awards.
This is a list of some of the biggest names and the movies they have starred in this year. It is in no way meant to be comprehensive, and I arbitrarily chose 65 to be the low-end age cutoff. Maybe you have seen some of these. (A few random trailers included) Continue reading “Reprint: A Good Year for Elder Actors”
Variety has created a series of conversations called “Actors on Actors” that are fascinating discussions between peers. Most of them are a man and a woman. I picked these three to include here because both the conversationalists are women, but don’t overlook the others at Variety Studio: Actors on Actors.
The women’s conversations are about art and craft and fame and the meaning of success.
UPDATE: Here’s another that just published with two women in conversation.
Here’s a video from the Sundance Institute in which filmmakers including Jane Fonda, Greta Gerwig, Kristen Wiig, Lesley Headland, Mindy Kaling, Ava DuVernay and others discuss the importance of female voices.
Jane, a 57 minute documentary from Sundance Doc Club, is about the young Jane Fonda. You can watch it in full at docclub.com, but here’s a clip to let you know more about what you’ll be seeing.
The doc shows Jane Fonda rehearsing for a starring role in a Broadway play. When the play opens to harsh critical notices, her reaction is shown.
Sometimes I’m amazed that anyone survives the devastations of youth to reach the wisdom of age. Or maybe it’s the blows we take as young people that lead to the wisdom of age. Either way, Jane Fonda has endured many a hard knock to become the woman she is today. Her journey reminds us that it’s worth the effort to keep on going, to keep on keeping on.
This is Where I Leave You is so rich and messy and complicated, I won’t even try to give you the details of the story. You get the basic story watching the trailer, which is that a family comes together to sit shiva for 7 days because of the death of the father.
In many ways, this is Jason Bateman’s film. As Judd Altman, the eldest brother, he carries us into and out of the story. His particular character gets more development than anyone else’s.
Writer Jonathan Tropper is an absolute genius at creating real feeling characters with just a few brush strokes.
Tina Fey as Wendy Altman is the big sister. She has two young children of her own. She’s the only sibling with kids – so far. Her son, played by Cade Lappin, regularly steals scenes with his potty chair and his attitude. She knows her brothers better than she knows herself, although she does make an effort to uncover some of her baggage while sitting on the roof with Judd.
Jane Fonda is the mother. She’s famous for writing a book about the foibles and intimate details of her 4 children. She overshares everything but the most important facts. She brings her children home and enforces her demand that they stay there for 7 days to sit shiva knowing how explosive and inappropriate it will get, but knowing it needs to happen.
There’s the responsible middle child played by Corey Stoll and the irresponsible baby brother, played by Adam Driver. They bring home with them assorted spouses, girlfriends, children, impending children, and discarded spouses. Once they are home they have to deal with old girlfriends, old boyfriends, surprising new girlfriends and many degrees of overshared sex.
As I mentioned, every character feels real. They may not have many moments of screen time, but every one of these actors knows how to make something big out of small moments. Especially the smaller parts, played by Connie Britton, Kathryn Hahn, Rose Byrne, Debra Monk, Abigail Spencer and Dax Shepard. Even as minor characters, they were nuanced people. I want Connie Britton’s character to have a whole movie of her own.
The only character that felt off was the Rabbi, played for comic relief by Ben Schwartz. The fact that everyone in the family insisted on calling him by his childhood nickname, Boner, even in Temple, tells you how that went. There was plenty going on that was truly laugh-out-loud funny without making the Rabbi into a joke.
With so many characters, each with their individual stories, the interactions were complicated. Each of the siblings had personal issues and responses to the loss of their father. The plot had lots of twists and turns and some elegant surprises. The film had humor, emotion, and touching moments of love and connection.
The beautiful thing about family dramas is there are no gun battles, no explosions, and no car chases. Instead, there are meaningful talks on the roof, ineffectual fisticuffs on the front lawn, and shared moments of revelation. This film has heart. It’s as good as any family drama you will ever see, probably better.
I’ve had many pop culture thoughts that I’ve neglected to actually write down in the last few weeks. It’s time for a brain dump.
I absolutely loved Peace, Love and Misunderstanding! This 2011 indie film was directed by Bruce Beresford. It starred Jane Fonda as an aging, free-spirited hippie and Catherine Keener as her daughter. Also featured are Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Elizabeth Olsen, Nat Wolff, Chace Crawford, Kyle MacLachlan, and Rosanna Arquette. It was filmed in the town of Woodstock, New York, where the movie is set.
It was a feel good story about family and love and acceptance. I completely recommend it. If you see it wander past in your Netflix new releases, click play.
I also loved The Immigrant, although it was not a fun romp in any way. This grim slice of reality starred Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, and Jeremy Renner, all of whom gave outstanding performances.
Joaquin Phoenix was particularly powerful as a man who preyed on helpless and desperate immigrant women, tricking them into prostitution for his own gain. I won’t explain the twists in the plot in this tale – there are several – except to say that it brought out some amazing acting from the 3 stars. Again, watch it if you see it in your streaming choices.
TV: The Winners
I haven’t given an opinion about Extant, starring Halle Berry yet. I’m enjoying this sci-fi drama about astronaut Molly Woods who returns pregnant from a 13 month mission alone in space. The sci-fi aspects of the show are a bit iffy, but the cast is giving it their all. Goran Visnjic plays her husband. Pierce Gagnon plays their son, who happens to be a robot. Grace Gummer and Camryn Manheim also have significant parts in the drama. I hope this one makes it to a second season.
Murder in the First is a a full season story arc involving one crime. It stars Teye Diggs and Kathleen Robertson as cops and Tom Felton as the billionaire murderer they struggle to convict. The characters are particularly well drawn, considering this is just the first season. Again, I hope this one makes it to a second season.
The BBC’s Lark Rise to Candleford has me hooked. I’m most of the way through the first season. There are 4 seasons. It’s a period drama with many great female characters. It’s only available on streaming services, since it’s been off the air for a while now.
The women of Defiance, oh my. The character Irisa on Defiance, played by Stephanie Leonidas, is becoming more and more layered. She’s taken on some kind of supernatural power – perhaps alien power would be a more accurate term. It’s given her interesting abilities and she’s attracting followers. She’s starting to remind me of the kind of strong leader that we have in Bo in Lost Girl or Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Defiance has allowed Stahma Tarr, played by Jaime Murray, to evolve into a powerful woman. Julie Benz’s character of Amanda Rosewater is turning out to be full of twists and intricacies. Julie Benz really shines in this role, in ways that are new for her.
TV: The Losers
I gave up on Under the Dome. The story makes no sense in sci-fi terms, no sense in religious terms. None of the characters really grab me. Enough.
I watched one, and only one, episode of Seed and thought it was too stupid to ever watch again. I wanted to watch it because of Amanda Brugel. Zoie Palmer likes Amanda Brugel, so I wanted to watch something with Amanda Brugel in it because – well, I like Zoie Palmer. Sorry, Zoie, this isn’t the place where I’m going to become a fan of Amanda Brugel. I’ll give her another chance some other time.