REVIEW: Late Bloomers. Starring William Hurt, Isabella Rossellini. Directed by Julie Gavras. PG. State Cinema.
French director Julie Gavras' feature debut Blame It On Fidel! was a clever charmer about an unusual childhood. She switches to English and the other end of the age spectrum for Late Bloomers, a pleasant, if uneven, comedy about growing older, whose veteran stars breathe life into an underdeveloped and occasionally muddled script.
Adam (William Hurt) and Mary (Isabella Rossellini) are a well-off London couple approaching retirement in a whirlpool of uncertainty and barely concealed dread. Adam, a renowned architect living off past glories, decides to seek fresh inspiration by working with young talent; Mary is worrying about moments of forgetfulness and whether she is still attractive.
Both are ill at ease in a world of aquarobics and smartphones, and Mary's playful attempts to accommodate their fading faculties only make Adam angry.
Late Bloomers has some good things to say, but does so largely through stagey monologues that pop up here and there in the film's episodic story.
It has its share of heart-warming moments, and doesn't descend into melodrama, but more than a few scenes with the potential for deeper involvement feel incomplete.
It's beautifully shot, with lots of lingering close-ups (especially of Rossellini, whose beauty has proven to be literally ageless), but coasts along at the subdued pace of a mobility scooter, with occasional bumps, before an unsatisfactory, somewhat rushed conclusion. (The sound quality varies, too.)
Fortunately, Hurt and Rossellini's quieter, nuanced style of acting suits their characters and they receive good support from Kate Ashfield, Aidan McArdle and Luke Treadaway as Adam and Mary's adult children, and Doreen Mantle as Mary's mother. For additional granny glamour, there's Joanna Lumley as Mary's best friend who's still faithful to her 1960s radical causes.
Late Bloomers' heart may miss a few beats, but it's in the right place. There were lots of knowing chuckles from the mostly 50-plus audience at the screening I attended, at the jokes as well as the more painful moments. As Adam's Lothario friend Richard (Simon Callow, being his usual flamboyant self) says, “Getting older isn't for sissies”.