Passionate geriatric romance is not something most people think of, or actually believe exists, at least not without a little help from determined unrealistic senile impulses or hormone enhancing medication. But writer/director Nicholas Fackler’s Lovely, Still emphatically resuscitates lust and longing in senior hearts and minds, while managing a respectfully enthralling sweet and spicy spotlight on these matters at hand. And minus the more typical senior condescending cartoonish ridicule in movies.
The directing debut of the relatively youthful Fackler, Lovely, Still takes up the truth in advertising challenge of its title to both gracefully and comically explore the daily ordeal of octogenarian existence of Robert Malone (Martin Landau). An eccentric fussy old loner who seems to manage to live by himself in a spacious, tidy suburban home, Malone is still oddly a working stiff employed as a low wage clerk at a local supermarket.
One evening when returning home, he’s shocked to find likewise elderly new neighbor Mary (Ellen Burstyn) roaming about his home, and proceeds to indelicately throw her out. But when she explains her concern because his door was open and he didn’t answer the bell, Malone is soon succumbing to her charms, not to mention her persistence in asking him out for a date. And though Malone’s explanation of these introductory events, and why his car was left just where it apparently crashed into the garage door may seem peculiar to onlookers in the audience, the fact that he was in a rush to ‘use the restroom’ makes perfect sense to him.
Lovely, Still isn’t just another screen romance, but instead is sensitively fine tuned to the unique highs and lows of falling in love ‘when there’s not much time left.’ And the reawakened dazzling chemistry between these two vintage lovebirds receives an additional expressively conveyed infusion, as to how intense mutual passion can surmount the ravages of confusion and memory loss as natural components of old age. This, while Fackler crafts his story in an effectively fractured and disoriented way, so that the audience doesn’t just sympathize but vicariously experiences the visceral feat themselves, of alternately resisting and succumbing to elder sensory decline.
It was Bette Davis who once uttered that now immortal mantra, ‘Growing old ain’t for sissies.’ And Lovely, Still reiterates that indelible notion from which no human being lucky enough to survive that long is exempt, framing old age as perhaps the greatest superhero screen manifestation of all.
4 [out of 4] stars