The Boynton Beach Club
Joseph Bologna, Dyan Cannon, Len Cariou, and Sally Kellerman star in a film written by Florence and Susan Seidelman, David Cramer, and Shelly Gitlow, and directed by Susan Seidelman.
Reviewed by Josef Woodard
In the earliest moments of this half-endearing tale of December-December romantic entanglements, the going gets dark. We’re barely out of the opening credits when a sudden twist of fate hints that we may be in for a black comedy. But no. Irreverence is kept to a kitschy minimum as we enter into the overlapping lives of several seniors living in the Florida community of Boynton Beach. They learn to deal with life without a spouse in the “Bereavement Club,” experiment with the dating game again, and bolster each other’s spirits, all in a breezy, sunbaked, and sometimes touching package.
Director Susan Seidelman’s career has careened from the sparkly, spunky ’80s films Smithereens and Desperately Seeking Susan to work on the box, directing Sex and the City. The writer-director has spun her new film from a story by her mother, Florence, whose actual experience in a Florida retirement home led her to concoct the basic premise.
Among the film’s virtues is a refreshing treatment of mature characters, an age group normally invisible on the big screen or else relegated to marginal status. (For the best recent film about senior life, check out the German delight Schultze Gets the Blues). It’s also gratifying to see actors like Sally Kellerman, Joseph Bologna, and others in roles larger than afterthoughts or background color.
For all of its incidental charms, Seidelman’s film seems caught between big- and small-screen dynamics, apace with her own career in film and TV. It suffers from the taint of sitcom humor and feel-good sentimentality, but manages to survive its sins and keep us tuned in, especially in terms of its non-stuffy respect for elders. The most surprising thing about the film may be the realization it brings that Dyan Cannon is within spitting distance of 70. The underlying message there is that aging and loving are experiences we all share.