★★★★ ELSA AND FRED | Newly widowed Fred has been coerced by his control freak of a daughter to sell his large house and move into an apartment in New Orleans.
He is stubborn, perpetually grumpy with everything and everybody and spends most of his days now lying around the house sleeping. It is, he explains, because of the realisation that he is in the twilight of a very disappointing so-so life. He was married to a woman he hated for 40 years and had a meaningless job in telecommunications he loathed.
Unbeknown to Fred, that is all about to change as his new neighbour Elsa has espied him across the hallway and has decided to set her cap at him. She is as elderly as him, but with a permanent twinkle in her eye and with such a zest for life, she is almost the exact opposite. Fred manages to avoid her completely until he has a mini plumbing emergency and has to seek her help, and although he doesn’t show the slightest interest in even being polite let alone friendly, that doesn’t stop Elsa’s dreaming and scheming.
Elsa has always been a hopeless romantic and fantasist and pride of place on her wall is a poster of Anita Ekberg from Fellini’s ‘La Dolce Vita’ in the scene in The Trevi Fountain where she makes love to Marcello Mastroianni. It is exactly how she wished her own life had panned out. Elsa does have an endearing habit of confusing her imagination with reality at times. It’s not that she is a pathological liar but she does have a tendency to embellish her stories by adding and deleting facts whenever it makes her appear more interesting. And as Fred slowly warms to her gentle but insistent overtures he soon learns to take most of Elsa’s tales with a pinch of salt.
And just when Fred finally gives in to her advances and starts being a human being again, he discovers the one story that Elsa has failed to even mention.
This delightful syrupy sentimental comedy is purely a vehicle for two wonderful actors to have some real fun that we can share. Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer had this startling chemistry together and was completely adorable as these two old very funny lovebirds making one final go of it before they croaked. They were such a sheer joy to watch making this essentially very lightweight story so very enjoyable. They had an impressive supporting cast that included Marcia Gay Harden, Chris Noth, James Brolin, George Segal and Scott Bakula but as they were mere props in this story, they had very little to say or do.
Directed and co-written by Michael Radford (Il Postino) this was a re-make of an Argentinean movie of the same name that was a very big smash in Spanish speaking countries in 2005. Unlikely to be a big blockbuster, but it will be a hit with an audience wanting to see two old-school movie actors who really are stars in every sense of the word.