| "Growing old is not for sissies" should be the catchphrase for this indie film, which takes a close look at the aging process and its effect on four elderly Americans and their supportive family members. It is a sensitive drama from director Greg W. Swartz in his feature film debut.
Frank (94-year-old Oscar winner Ernest Borgnine appearing in his 199th film), June (Piper Laurie, 79, "Frasier" and "Carrie"), Ella (Anne Meara, 81, "The King of Queens" and "Night at the Museum") and Alice (Emmy winner Doris Roberts, 80, "Everybody Loves Raymond") live in a Harrisburg, Pa., nursing home and meet for poker every morning. Despite their constant bickering and strong opinions about life, death and everything in between, they offer unyielding loyalty and an unbreakable bond of friendship toward one another.
Frank receives frequent visits from his son Jeffrey (Emmy winner Richard Schiff from "The West Wing"), his daughter Vickie (Cybill Shepherd from "Cybill" and "Moonlighting") and his freckle-faced grandson Jack (Cameron Monaghan). Frankís left arm is paralyzed from a stroke and he takes daily insulin shots for diabetes. Frankís favorite staff person is his devoted male nurse Paul (Sunkrish Bala).
Frank asks his son to bring him a box containing memorabilia that includes his World War II service revolver. He wants to show it to Paul. He says by holding it that he can remember the buddies who fought alongside him in combat. Jeffrey isnít aware that among the assortment of stuff is a separate pouch housing the bullets.
Anyone knows that when you have a gun in a movie, it is only a matter of time before it is used. The movieís only suspense is when it will be fired, who will do the shooting and what will be the target.
The movie is slowly paced and depressing as we watch Frankís health deteriorate from a series of small strokes that confine him to his bed. Frank spends a lot of time looking at the sun and the moon, contemplating the wonders of day and night.
The 87-minute running time seems interminably longer, especially during repetitive family visits that sometimes entail just sitting in the room or waiting around in the hallway.
Screenwriter Jeremy T. Black enlarged the story based on his original stage play by adding family members and caregivers. The best lines of dialogue are recited by the quartet of senior citizens, who give the strongest and most believable performances. They all exhibit a sense of humor that attempts to offer a respite from the end-of-life scenario.
Baby boomers with aging parents will be able to identify with the characters and find the highly personal situations to be realistically accurate. The movie deserves kudos for showing respect for the quality of life and dying with dignity.
The movie won the Audience Choice Award and Best Original Score for composers Ricardo Garcia and William V. Malpede at the 2009 Rhode Island International Film Festival, where the world premiere was held.
This movie, which deserves a listing in The Guinness Book of World Records for the highest combined age (334) of the four leading actors, is now playing for a limited engagement exclusively at the Glenwood Arts.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"