Carol’s contented life with her house, her dog and the regular games of bridge and golf with her friends is very well sketched in at the beginning of the film, her relationship with her dog immediately endears us to her and Danner, a skilled and often under appreciated actress, makes Carol a totally likeable woman to spend time with. One can understand why she’s not interested in having some bloke barging into her life, particularly after she is persuaded by her friends to take part in what turns out of be a comically ghastly “speed dating for olders” evening. She also has a delightful sense of fun, as we discover later.
Carol’s comfortable routine is however disrupted when her beloved dog dies, leaving an emotional hole in her life and then again, when she discovers a rat running rampant in her home. She turns for help to Lloyd (Starr), the young man who comes to clean her pool and a tentative friendship develops between them over a thank you glass of wine or two. Despite the age difference of around forty years, they even go on a date to a nearby karaoke bar, where Carol’s pre-marriage youth as a singer reasserts itself in her impressive rendition of “Cry Me A River.”
But then a more suitable suitor enters her life in the person of Bill (Elliott), a single man of similar age to her, with a twinkle in his eye and an unlit cigar semi permanently in his mouth. Bill is determined to defy the advancing years and enjoy them to the full and as he courts her with a lavish lunch and champagne on his yacht, defiantly named “So What”, it becomes clear he has Carol in mind to share those last years. The sexual relationship that develops between them is delicately handled and Elliott is very charismatic – sexy and charming in a laid back way and a little bit unsettling in his determination to make Carol a permanent part of his life.
The other element in Carol’s life is her daughter Katherine (Malin Akerman), long grown up and left home. It is a relationship which hints at past conflicts but avoids the cliché of overt intergenerational recriminations and confrontations common to so many films in favour one that is becoming mutually accepting and supportive. It is also interesting to observe the way the film accepts without condemnation Carol’s liberal consumption of white wine – something which is usually an indication in puritanical America of an impending alcoholic tragedy!
Carol’s three woman friends (Rhea Perlman, June Squibb and Mary Kay Place) are perhaps a touch predictable at times in their funtion as comic relief, though Perlman in particular contributes some lively moments. And a scene of their encounter with a young policeman, when the four of them are stoned on medical marijuana (which is presumably legal in California) is a beautifully played comedy delight.
Director Haley and and his co-writer Marc Basch are both in the thirties, yet, like British writer/directors Andrew Haigh (45 Years) and Tom Browne (Radiator), they demonstrate a perceptive understanding of older characters. The initial money to develop the project was raised via a Kickstarter campaign and the film was researched and shot with the enthusiastic co-operation of a real life Los Angeles retirement community. The result is a small but beautifully played story, which embraces the everyday joys and poignant sorrows of life in a big way and is most enjoyable. Younger audiences too may go for its reassurance that being old doesn’t necessarily mean the end of life and love.
Review by Carol Allen