MacLaine Shines in "The Last Word"

Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 3.34.40 PM MediaEvery once in a while, I like to talk about a movie that I think has special relevance to Boomers. "The Last Word" starring Shirley MacLaine is a quirky movie that may have slipped under your radar since it had a limited release and didn't get stellar reviews (which usually means it's worth seeing!). My wife and I are likely to see any movie that features Shirley MacLaine (now a spry 82 years old), and we were not disappointed in this one.

MacLaine plays Harriet Lauler, a retired adwoman who is brash, strong willed and at times irascible. Lauler applies her knack for selling products during her career to an unusual desire: She wants to have her obituary created before she dies. This leads to her enlisting Anne Sherman, a young journalist played by Amanda Seyfried, to write the obituary. It would be accurate to define the movie as a dark comedy.

I'd rather not share more of the plot since it will give away too much. Suffice it to say that MacLaine shines like a very bright light, somehow acting the part with gruffness and warmth at the same time. She turns Lauler into a fascinating character study of a very successful businesswoman who has a giant hole in her personal life. One of the more interesting aspects of the movie is Lauler's mother-like relationship with Sherman and grandmother-like relationship with an adorable waif.

There are many messages in this movie about life, love, relationships, and redemption lost and found. MacLaine's tour de force is reason enough to see it. My wife and I, however, rate movies on the basis of whether or not we have something to talk about when we leave the theater, and "The Last Word" prompted a lively discussion.  

5 Good Retirement Tips for Boomers

MediaA special section on Retirement appeared in the Sunday, March 5 edition of The New York Times. In it were a number of informative articles, including making a retirement plan, when and how to save, reinventing careers and repurposing skills, working past the age of 65, and a perspective on Baby Boomer farmers in Iowa who see the land as their retirement plan.

Also in that section, retirement expert Kerry Hannon shares five good retirement tips to implement if you are in your 60s and beyond. You can read more detail on each of these tips in the article here:

1. Get a grip on your retirement income sources

2. Take control of fixed monthly costs

3. Consider working beyond your official retirement age

4. Shift your investments to a more conservative asset mix

5. Plan your withdrawal rates.


The Thought-Provoking Movie "Denial"

Media Screen Shot 2016-11-16 at 2.44.59 PMIf you like movies that address contemporary issues and make you think, put Denial on your must-see list. Based on a true story, Denial is a tale of a libel case fought in a British courtroom where, unlike in the United States, the defendant is essentially guilty until proven innocent. The case has been brought by a Holocaust-denying historian, brilliantly played by Timothy Spall, against another historian, also well acted by Rachel Weisz, whose Jewish heritage contributes to her moral outrage at being sued for defaming a thoroughly despicable person. The most complex and endearing character in the movie, though, might be Weisz's British attorney. Sensitively portrayed by Tom Wilkinson, the attorney stages an unorthodox takedown of the Holocaust denier in a courtroom scene that ranks among the most memorable in film.

There are many messages in this intricate, thought-provoking movie. It ultimately exhibits a kind of good vs. evil that leaves one feeling vindicated but not entirely satisfied with the outcome. For a movie with little "action" in the traditional Hollywood sense, Denial had that rare ability to keep my wife and I entranced through the story and dialogue alone. I highly recommend it. 

Genius: A Thoughtful Movie for Adults

MediaI don't know about you, but my wife and I have become a lot more selective in the movies we watch. We detest violence and cruelty, both of which continue to pre-occupy many movie makers. Instead, we lean towards "message" movies that we perceive will have some lasting value.

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 3.05.28 PMGenius is in that category. This movie chronicles the short writing career of Thomas Wolfe, focusing on his relationship with his editor, Max Perkins. Genius is very much a period piece, taking place in the 1920s. It really has the look and feel of an older era in the dress, the lifestyle, the book publishing business, and even in the way it is lit.

Of course, a fine movie is nothing without a story and excellent actors, and Genius has these elements as well. We got real insight into the way Wolfe and Perkins developed a relationship, the psyche of Wolfe, the instability of his wife, and the toll working with Wolfe took on Perkins's personal life. We witnessed tour de force performances from Colin Firth as Perkins and especially Jude Law as Wolfe. Law was as believable a troubled genius as any I've seen on screen. The movie itself was understated, almost to the extent that it felt more like a play than a movie -- but its strength as a dramatic film was impressive. This is a movie for adults.

My wife and I often judge the quality of a movie based on whether we think about it and talk about it well after we finish watching it. For us, Genius was one of those movies.

Lessons to be Learned from "Hello, My Name is Doris"

Media"Hello, My Name is Doris" is one of a growing number of movies targeting Boomers -- and this one should be especially endearing because it stars Sally Field. It is wonderful to see her back on the screen playing Doris Miller, a single spinsterish woman who fantasizes about a romance with a younger man. The plot alone is reason enough to support the film, even though at times it seems Doris is being made fun of instead of having fun.

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 2.54.51 PMStill, there are lessons to be learned from this charming, funny, and poignant film. For one thing, Doris is a hoarder, replicating the undesirable behavior of her deceased mother; in fact, she continues to live in her mother's junk-filled home. Let this be a lesson to those who cannot let go of the past. On the positive side, however, her imagined romance breathes new life into Doris in a way that demonstrates embracing new things is possible at any age. When she steps outside her comfort zone and becomes something of a trendy heroine to the younger generation, Doris really is symbolic of the Boomer penchant for reinvention.

Doris' pining for a younger man, while sad in some ways, is a welcome change from the more traditional older man-younger woman scenario that occupies life, literature, and movies. It certainly shows that women are just as capable of lusting after youth. In the end, however, the real lesson of the movie is that after all of her angst, Doris emerges a better, stronger, more together person. And Sally Field plays her to perfection.

Movies for Boomers: "Bridge of Spies" Offers a Jolt of Nostalgia

MediaIt is no accident that Hollywood is producing more movies for Boomers. Our generation has the time and money to go to the movies to be entertained, and Hollywood knows it. Fellow Boomer Steven Spielberg, arguably one of the greatest directors ever, offers a jolt of nostalgia in his latest production, "Bridge of Spies."

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 11.36.25 AMIf you haven't read the reviews or seen the movie yet, this is a Cold War-era drama, based on a true story, about James Donovan, an American attorney (brilliantly portrayed by Tom Hanks) who defends a Russian spy. It becomes a far more complex tale as the movie unfolds. I want to concentrate, though, on the non-plot elements that will undoubtedly jog Boomers' memories of their childhood.

If you grew up in the 1950s and early 60's, you were sure to be affected one way or the other by the Cold War. The nostalgic aspects of this movie surround you with all sorts of images from that time in our history. I could easily relate to the scenes of school children being so scared of "the bomb" that they would burst out crying. The fabric of the film also reinforces the era. The scenes of family meals, black-and-white TV shows, those infamous TV dinners, the working dad and the stay-at-home mom... all of these resonated with me as a throwback to my childhood. Spielberg did a masterful job with the authenticity of what streets, cars, modes of dress, houses, and apartments looked like. And he really captured the Cold War hysteria we all felt.

So in addition to being a good story and an engaging movie, "Bridge of Spies" is a giant jolt of nostalgia! Go see it.

Is "Grace and Frankie" an Accurate Picture of Growing Older?

Media Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 7.43.02 AMGrace and Frankie, the situation comedy series starring Jane Fonda and Lili Tomlin, has become an online sensation. Airing only on Netflix, the first season was such a hit that the series has been renewed for another season. The premise is somewhat unusual: two long-married mature women learn that their husbands (played by Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston), who work together in a law firm, are more (much more) than business partners.

In light of the recent Supreme Court ruling concerning gay marriage, the show will likely take on even more meaning in Season Two. But Season One has already served up aspects of senior life that will surely resonate with boomers. Derek Dunham, writing for MediaPost, points out to marketers that Grace and Frankie accurately reflects on boomers' contemporary attitudes and lifestyles. These "older" characters are shown going online, getting divorced, coming out, falling in love, having sex, smoking marijuana, and continuing to work. Frankie's family is also a multi-racial blend of adopted kids. Even age discrimination is on full display in an episode in which Grace and Frankie are ignored by a store clerk who focuses his attention on a younger customer.

Grace and Frankie turns out to be a pretty interesting mirror for all of us.

Subtly Plying the Waters of Retirement: "I'll See You in My Dreams"

Media"I'll See You in My Dreams" is a movie that some may call a sleeper: It might seem fairly innocent and maybe even inconsequential at first blush, but it could leave a lasting impression that is hard to get out of your mind. 

Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 4.29.22 PMOne of the reasons this film makes an impact is the nuanced acting of Blythe Danner as Carol, a widowed woman who seems to bump into mortality at every turn. While Danner clearly shines as the main character, there are a lot of other things to like about this understated little gem. For instance, Carol's platonic relationship with a much younger man (misinterpreted by one of Carol's friends) is a mature theme too often overlooked in movies. Sam Elliott's Bill, Carol's unexpected love interest, is himself an engaging, complex character. Carol's cliquish friends set an amusing undertone while helping to portray the realism of life in a retirement community. At least two scenes -- one in which Carol speed dates and another in which she and her friends get high on pot -- are laugh-out-loud funny.

Humor, however, is not the primary point of "I'll See You in My Dreams;" it has a bittersweet feel to it that exposes the vulnerability of our later years, in particular, the pain women may endure. This is a movie that had me thinking about it long after I exited the theatre. I recommend it.

Older Actors Featured in Summer Movies

MediaIn a recent article about summer action movies, it is nice to see The New York Times acknowledge the reality that this year's crop has a different appearance on the silver screen; namely the appearance of silver-haired actors. Senior stars have gained in popularity and you guessed it, one of the reasons is that boomers go to the movies.

About Meryl Streep (age 65), for example, Manohla Dargis and A. O. Scott write that Streep "has only in the past 10 years realized her potential as a box-office force. Since 2006, she has starred in five movies that exceeded or came close to the $100 million mark in North American ticket sales. To paraphrase 'King Lear': Ripeness is cool."

Happily, Dargis and Scott believe we're seeing more actors over 50 not just as a result of nostalgia, but also because these older actors "bring gravity, craft and seasoned, relaxed professionalism to projects that otherwise might lack those qualities." Still, Dargis and Scott point out that film makers "seem more comfortable with retirees shooting people and crashing helicopters than making love." Ouch.

Nevertheless, let's be happy about the increasing prominence of those grand elder actors on the screen. At least we can relate to them. As Dargis and Scott conclude, "They are changing the face of movie stardom, one wrinkle at a time."

What "Danny Collins" Says About Redemption

MediaI hope you've seen or will see the movie "Danny Collins." Besides being a showcase for Al Pacino, who gives a signature performance as an aging rock star, the movie has a poignancy that boomers can't help but appreciate.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 4.07.14 PMPacino's Danny seems to be a stereotyped drug-taking, skirt-chasing celebrity who still tours, continuing to sing the drivel that made him famous decades ago. Danny struggles with the lifestyle to the point of considering suicide. Everything changes, though, when Danny receives a birthday gift from his manager (also beautifully played by Christopher Plummer) -- it is a letter John Lennon wrote to Collins at the start of his career, but Danny never knew about it. The letter is a catalyst for a change of life, and that's the rest of the movie.

Rather than share the plot, suffice it to say that there are many forms of redemption that occur as the plot unfolds. Danny redeems himself by finally understanding at least in part who he is, where he is in his life, what he gave up to get there, and how to reconnect with estranged family. As an aside, it's also a refreshing trend to see elder actors like Pacino and Plummer get starring roles in a film whose target audience is most definitely in the same age range. "Danny Collins" left me with a lot to think about.