How things have changed! On my Facebook’s news page, Aging Studies and AgeUK share a link “Is Hollywood finally growing up?: Films and Old People”. It is an article published on AgeUK website under the lifestyle section. It is thrilling for me to notice the changes that have occurred not over my life time but during my life as an old woman. When I started to be interested in old women in films at the age of 63, nobody dreamt of using the two words ‘films and old people’ in the same sentence. When I did my research for the BFI ‘Older Women in Feature films’ in 2002, I struggled with the concepts of ‘old’, ‘older’ and films . https://oldwomaninfeaturefilms.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/bfi.pdf
Now I am overwhelmed by the proliferation of academic papers about the experience of ageing and I can barely catch up with the films about old people. However I remain worried by the cinematic exposure.
Pride of place in Smurthwaite’s article is The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel that I have written about in July. £7.5million to make, 84 million profits and rising. Christopher Tookey film critic: ‘The whole thing is poignant, watchable and gently amusing. I can’t think of many people over 50 who would not enjoy it.” Daily Mail 24th Feb. I, together with some old women friends did not like this patronising UK, USA, United Arab emirates funded film. It is too much like a pacifier with homilies about getting older. I have not yet seen the English production A song for Marion or Heneke’s Amour. Hope Springs, is the only ‘Hollywood’ film of the list of films released or soon to be released. This time it is the sexual problems of an old couple that we are presented with and frankly I found the film embarrassingly bad.
Quartet however is a sensitive and intelligent film about old age. Dustin Hoffman the director is 75, Harwood the writer is 78, the actors all over 65 well-known thespians. Finola Dwyer the producer is quoted as saying “‘I wanted to make Quartet an aspirational film in terms of the retirement home itself. I’d recently gone through the business of finding a home for my mother in New Zealand and it was depressing seeing all these places, the way they were furnished and set up.” Quartet is a feel good film and to the critics who say: “Yes but retirement homes are not like Beecham House”, I reply: Precisely. Why not?
In this article Smurthwaite says that there is a change of heart in Hollywood. The films he mentions are primarily European and the only American film he quotes is hardly different from the usual Hollywood domestic comedies fare. If films about older people rely on formulaic box office successes like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel instead of looking for the real lives, and experiences of old people, I despair.
Dustin Hoffman to the actors of Quartet: ‘We’re all in this so-called third act of our lives, and what we feel about ourselves in terms of ageing, what we feel about our work, is what I’d like to see on the screen.’