The trailer for this movie starring Blythe Danner looked to be a typical “older widow rediscovers life” dramedy. I had no interest in it and promptly forgot about it, until it actually got released and got a good response from both critics and audiences. I went to it with trepidation; I shouldn’t have worried. The film is a quiet, deeply felt masterpiece, one of those perfectly carved images on a piece of ivory. It’s ambitions are not large and its canvas is small and simple, but it achieves a deep level of emotion. Danner is really wonderful as a woman long widowed who finds herself shaken when her beloved dog dies; the film seems poised to become a movie about her rediscovering love when she meets the charming Sam Elliott (and it has been way too long since I saw Sam Elliott in anything) and rediscover how to have fun when she meets an awkward pool cleaner, wonderfully played in a very surprising turn by comedian Martin Starr. But the film doesn’t have anything that obviously dramatic on its mind. It ultimately just becomes a picture of this woman’s life over a period of a few days or a couple of weeks. Danner handles every emotion with grace and she still holds the screen as well as she ever did. It’s a wonderful, quiet performance. This is part of what makes the film work; the minimal nature of the performances – Elliott has the easy natural charisma that made him an iconic figure in the first place and Martin Starr’s performance is very minimal and naturalistic as well. The film finds a lot of humor in the interactions between Danner and her three friends, played a bit more broadly by Mary Kay Place, Rhea Perlman and June Squibb – this stuff could come off as forced, but it really doesn’t, not even a sequence in which the girls experiment with medical marijuana. But ultimately, the film is about a quiet kind of melancholy, a regret that isn’t strong enough to be haunting, but isn’t small enough to be easily swept under the rug. It isn’t about big emotions or dramatic scenes; it’s about the small things that we feel more deeply than we’ll ever show and the quiet conversations we have about those feelings. It’s really a wonderful movie and a nice chance to see some real pros show that they’ve still got the stuff; and it’s refreshing to see a film so obviously from a perspective that few movies are made from these days. I’ve talked about how small and quiet this movie is, but if you know me you know that’s no slam. Far from it in fact. 4 stars.
tl;dr – quiet, melancholy drama gives Blythe Danner a beautiful showcase for her still considerable talents as a long widowed woman going through life with quiet grace. 4 stars.