2013, PG-13, 93 min. Directed by Paul Andrew Williams. Starring Terence Stamp, Vanessa Redgrave, Gemma Arterton, Christopher Eccleston, Anne Reid, Elizabeth Counsell, Ram John Holder.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., July 5, 2013
This British import would be utter rubbish were it not for the engaging presence of Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp as the couple at the heart of things, whose song is unfinished. Predictable and manipulative, this is a film about sweet old people who brighten their retirement years by singing in the community choir and the one grump who resists and must learn to find the uplift in song. The gifted veterans, Redgrave and Stamp, manage to imbue their characters with personalities and physical bearings that transcend the stereotypical. But there’s little else that separates a film like this from the sing-your-heart-out self-actualizations of a teen show like Glee.
In the tradition of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, whose box-office success exposed a market for movies about golden-agers, the Weinstein Company clearly hopes to make hay from this film’s geriatric protagonists. Redgrave and Stamp are cast as the long-married, retired couple, Marion and Arthur, whose abiding love is never in question. Yet Marion is dying of cancer, and Arthur finds the enthusiastic hours she spends rehearsing with the community choir made up of fellow senior citizens to be ill-spent time. He dutifully and silently steers her wheelchair to and from the rec center, yet he refuses to participate. The group is led by Elizabeth (Arterton), a music teacher who schools teenagers in the daytime and moonlights as the choirmaster for the OAP’Z (Old Age Pensioners) by night. Elizabeth enters the group in a choir competition, and also narrates the story.
Why Arthur is such a curmudgeon remains a mystery. Marion accepts this about him and calls him a “puffed-up pigeon,” which is an apt description. Yet Arthur’s relationship with his son James (Eccleston) is also difficult, and since this tension also becomes a dominant issue in the story, it would be nice to have a better sense of its origins. But this seems too much to ask for within a framework that accepts that a song well sung can solve everything.