While this geriatric romance is too simplistic and sentimental to be anything remarkable, its lively central performances add some badly needed subtext and make the film worth a look. Meanwhile, the supporting cast add some spark to their scenes, elevating the warm, silly drama with quirky humour and some more resonant themes. It's also remarkably honest about how it feels to grow older.
Set in New Orleans, the story starts as 80-year-old Fred (Christopher Plummer) is moved by his hyperactive daughter Lydia (Marcia Gay Harden) into a small apartment building. Fred's wife has recently died, but they didn't get along very well, so he's enjoying being on his own. Although Lydia's husband (Chris Noth) has yet another crazy business scheme he wants Fred to invest in. And his new next door neighbour is Elsa (Shirley MacLaine), a larger-than-life 74-year-old who claims to have once known Picasso. Her son Raymond (Scott Bakula) looks in on her from time to time, while she secretly supports her younger son Alec (Reg Rogers) in his artistic career. She also immediately starts trying to coax Fred out of his shell.
Obviously, the main idea is that you're never too old to fall in love, so director-cowriter Michael Radford (Il Postino) tries to balance a comedy about ageing with a sweet love story about an engagingly mismatched couple. The blend of genres is somewhat uneven, as the script never quite decides whether it's about making the most of the time you have left, being open to unexpected romance or accepting your family members for who they are. All of these big themes are in here, most with a fairly heavy-handed touch. But at least this means that the film is about more than just a bunch of goofy characters interacting in rather silly ways.
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Like The Wind Rises, this Oscar-nominated Studio Ghibli animation is a proper cinematic epic, telling a sprawling story with artistry, invention and vivid characters that leave most Hollywood animated movies in the dust. It's based on a 10th century Japanese folktale that's packed with resonant themes, and it's been animated in a way that makes it look like a childhood storybook come to life. So even if it feels rather long at 2 hours 17 minutes, the visual minimalism is relentlessly beautiful.
The story begins in the countryside, where farmer Okina (James Caan in the English-language version) finds a tiny girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) in a bamboo stalk. Believing her to be a princess, he raises her with his wife Ouna (Mary Steenburgen). When he finds silk and gold in his bamboo grove, Okina decides that the gods want them to raise the now-teen girl in a more regal setting, so they all move to the capital, where she's officially named Princess Kaguya and becomes the most eligible girl in the kingdom, attracting offers from five wealthy men, plus His Majesty (Dean Cain) himself. But Kaguya is longing for the quieter life in the country, and misses her childhood pal Sutemaru (Darren Criss).
As it develops, the story becomes deeper and richer, offering hints as to where the events are headed, although nothing prepares us for the final-act sequence, which feels almost anachronistic in its surreally eclectic splendour. But by then, we have become completely engulfed in Kaguya's story, identifying with her longing to reconnect with the friends who used to call her "L'il Bamboo" because she grew up much more quickly than they did. This tension between sophisticated high society and rural simplicity adds an extra layer of meaning to the entire film, as does the running commentary about Japan's gender politics. And the hint of romance between Kaguya and Sutemaru offers further subversion of the social order.
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Once upon a time in Japan, a bamboo cutter discovered a miniature girl inside the body of a glowing stalk of bamboo. When he took the girl home, he adopted her as his daughter, and decided that she must be a princess. The princess began to grow at an alarming rate, soon becoming a young woman. One day, the bamboo cutter discovered another glowing stalk and once again, decided to chop it down. Inside was enough gold for him to build a palace for his princess. But a princess with a palace needs a prince, and the little princess wanted only to return to her friends. The punishment for dishonouring the prince's request would be death, so the princess was forced to embark on a journey through love, life, and Japan, in search of her heart's desire.
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Fred Barcroft is an old man struggling to find much good in his life following the death of his wife. While he feels terribly lonely, he hates being around people, and while he despises the tiny apartment his daughter Lydia has moved him into, he can't bear to enjoy the world outside. Soon he meets Elsa Hayes from a nearby apartment; a free spirit of similar age determined to enjoy the last years of her life in the most spectacular ways possible, be it running from an expensive restaurant without paying or going dancing like she did when she was young. She teaches Fred that death is not something to be feared, rather a motivation to live the life you have. While Lydia disapproves of her father's newfound romance, he starts to open up, cheer up and realise that his life is far from over.
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Jamie is the kind of guy who doesn't like commitment, sex and fun are the main things he looks for from the opposite sex and he enjoys his current way of life. A pharmaceutical salesman by trade, his job is another hugely important part of his life, when his company begin to sell a new male performance enhancing drug on the market, he feel it's a brilliant way of making money.
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