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By Daniel Lammin
21st February 2012

The subject of growing old is one the cinema continues to return to. Even go back to Billy Wilder’s ‘Sunset Boulevard’ (1950) and you find winning combinations of director and star exploring impending mortality and the desire to either grow old gracefully or hold it off as long as possible. For her second feature, French director Julie Gavras finds her muses in William Hurt and Isabella Rossellini, a pair with a tremendous amount of history and experience behind them.

After an unusual medical scare, Mary (Rossellini) is starting to become aware of her age. Her husband Adam (Hurt), an acclaimed architect, is also starting to see himself outrun by younger, more driven colleagues, and wants desperately to catch up. To deal with their mid-life epiphanies, both take drastically different routes: Adam trying to regain his youth and Mary prepping for a future as aged and disabled, driving both themselves and their family round the bend.

Initially, ‘Late Bloomers’ has a lot of promise. Gavras knows what to do with a camera, and the film is visually pleasing. The prologue with Mary waiting outside while her husband receives a lifetime achievement award gives the impression of a minimalist, highly choreographed Tati-esque comedy. From there, however, the film goes drastically downhill. Gavras’ technical skills cannot overcome the trite and cliché-ridden screenplay, devoid of tension and built on the most flimsy of character arches. William Hurt comes off the worst in this instance. Adam is a dull character continually making dull decisions, a man so devoid of passion or virility that you wonder why Mary would be with him at all. He less joins the dots in this performance than fumbles his way through. The supporting cast don’t fare well either, especially Joanna Lumley and Simon Callow. We know how exciting both these actors can be, so the fact they are given such flimsy and obvious characters makes it even worse - less characters than ciphers needed to fill the story out.


The one thing that saves ‘Late Bloomers’ from being totally aimless is Isabella Rossellini, who is wonderful as Mary. There is something quite magical about her, perhaps seeing one of the most beautiful women in the world dealing with the quagmire of growing older. There is a cheeky twinkle in her eye throughout the film, and she wisely plays more with the comedy inherent in her character rather than the drama. The scene where she attends a water aerobics class is classic, and almost worth seeing the film for.

However, halfway through the film, the focus shifts almost entirely to Adam, and William Hurt is clearly in a very different film. His is the serious drama, hers is the slapstick situational comedy, and I know which one I would have preferred to see. It is such a waste of Rossellini’s talents and the generous offer she makes to ‘Late Bloomers’. This seems to be the biggest problem with the film - that it isn’t sure what genre it is in. There is nothing wrong with combining comedy and drama, but with ‘Late Bloomers’, the shifts seem arbitrary and not well thought through. As a consequence, when the drama arrives, it's flimsy and without impact. The climax of the film seems so unrelated to the central conflict between Mary and Adam, that is feels like a different film again. If it had been constructed with its tone and protagonist clearly defined, it might not have been such a taxing film.

There is nothing wrong with combining comedy and drama, but with ‘Late Bloomers’, the shifts seem arbitrary and not well thought through.

I’m sure there is an audience out there for this film, and, more than likely, I’m not who the film is targeted to. Yet I couldn’t help but feel that ‘Late Bloomers’ was the slightest bit condescending to the concept of growing old. You have no pity for Adam as he ruins his marriage and his family, and not enough is shown of Mary towards the end for us to get a sense of where her character has moved to, other than to be amusingly batty adding support bars to the bath that she clearly doesn’t need. In the end, it seems like Mary and Adam are exactly where they started at the beginning, and not in an ironic or telling way. The final impression ‘Late Bloomers’ leaves you is of a lazy, uneven film that could have been something special, if the creatives behind it had any idea what film they wanted to make.

RELEASE DATE: 23/02/2012
RUN TIME: 1h 35m
CAST: William Hurt
Isabella Rossellini
Doreen Mantle
Kate Ashfield
Aidan McArdle
Arta Dobroshi
Luke Treadaway
Leslie Phillips
Hugo Speer
Joanna Lumley
DIRECTOR: Julie Gavras
PRODUCERS: Bertrand Faivre
Sylvie Pialat
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