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With: Dyan Cannon, Sally Kellerman, Brenda Vaccaro, Michael Nouri, Len Cariou, Joseph Bologna, Renee Taylor, Mal Z. Lawrence
Written by: Susan Seidelman, Shelly Gitlow, based on a story by Florence Seidelman, David Cramer
Directed by: Susan Seidelman
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 105
Date: 10/21/2005

Boynton Beach Club (2006)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

My Grammy's 'Beach'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Most American movies are aimed at teenage boys. It's difficult to dispute that. Otherwise, a large chunk of them are primed for younger kids, a few are aimed at teenage girls (Hilary Duff or Lindsay Lohan usually star), and older men can usually find something enjoyable from amongst the teenage fare (Inside Man, The Da Vinci Code).

So where does that leave older women, say of retirement age? It's not inconceivable that they sit quietly through so many boys' adventure movies, feigning enjoyment. Or maybe they drag themselves out to the latest powdered, costumed adaptation of some classic novel, perhaps wishing that something more personal would come along.

In 2003, two such movies, Calendar Girls and Something's Gotta Give, did so. Both were mildly entertaining, but both were artificial and gimmicky, playing into already proven genres.

Now comes our best bet in 2006, Susan Seidelman's Boynton Beach Club. It, too, falls too easily into romantic comedy movie conventions, but for the first two-thirds at least, it's an enjoyably sassy comedy, reveling in the all-too-rare idea that mature people are people too.

It helps that 69 year-old Dyan Cannon, who still looks like she could be in her thirties, is the star. Cannon had a famous comeback a few years ago playing a sexy judge dating a much younger lawyer on TV's "Ally McBeal." It's difficult to imagine that this bombshell, with her cascading ringlets of blond hair, was once married to Cary Grant.

Cannon serves two purposes here; she represents a burst of life for over-60 women, and she will draw over-60 men into the theater.

She plays Lois, a widow and a member of the Boynton Beach Bereavement Club (the producers dropped the word "bereavement" from the title to encourage more box office). When her neighbor Marilyn (Brenda Vaccaro) loses her husband to a careless driver, Lois invites her to join the club.

It's difficult to believe, but the film sprang from stories by Seidelman's mother, Florence, and a friend, Dave Cramer, who both joined a similar, real-life bereavement club.

Marilyn is a curmudgeonly cynic to Lois' happy-go-lucky lady and the two hit it off immediately. They set out to have a good time, with a wary eye on fresh new fellows for their love lives.

One of them, Donald (Michael Nouri) makes a successful play for Lois. Meanwhile, new widower Jack (Len Cariou) takes a few single-guy tips from veteran widower Harry (Joseph Bologna, so memorable as King Kaiser in the classic 1982 comedy My Favorite Year).

Incidentally, Bologna is the oldest member of the cast at 71. Cannon is right behind him, tied with the still-beautiful Sally Kellerman, both at 69.

After a while, Jack manages a couple of awkward dates with Sandy (Kellerman); he takes her to a buffet (rather than a decent restaurant) and then tries to cook for her, but his earnestness saves the day.

Boynton Beach Club has its gaze firmly rooted from Seidelman's female perspective. The men are all slightly clueless, helpless and lost. We see them acting macho and brave but we rarely get a glimpse of their inner lives.

On the other hand, the recently widowed Jack gets to begin dating again, and with a sexy, slender woman no less (certainly not the poor, frail little lady who leaves casseroles on his doorstep) while the dumpy, shapeless Marilyn has to learn how to be single.

It's an odd set of double standards, and it shows that Boynton Beach Club wasn't the most well-planned of operations. Some critics have pointed out that if we replace all the retirees with teenagers, we'd have just another brain-dead comedy.

Certainly the climax, set at a New Year's sock-hop dance, could easily double for the usual teen movie prom showdown, not to mention the last-minute romantic confession and get-together scene.

But before its happy-ending wrap up, this carelessness works in the movie's favor. Seidelman could have worked the old-people-playing-at-teenage-hijinks angle as a kind of freakshow (especially the scene in which Lois goes rollerblading), but instead she uses it as a kind of refresher. Her characters learn to let down their hair, but they do it with dignity and wisdom.

It's definitely thanks to the skill of the talented cast that Boynton Beach Club works at all, but Seidelman deserves credit as well. This director has specialized in screwball comedies and has always managed to turn in better films than her material would suggest (she may have been just as comfortable working in the 1930s with Grant, Irene Dunne, Katharine Hepburn and Rosalind Russell).

Two of her earliest comedies, Desperately Seeking Susan (1985) and Making Mr. Right (1987), should have been absolute duds, but her slightly off-kilter, distanced touch (a bit like Robert Altman's) kept them aloft.

Her most recent feature film, the light, enjoyable Gaudi Afternoon (2001) -- which played at the San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival -- proved that she still had the touch.

For some reason Gaudi Afternoon (which starred Judy Davis, Marcia Gay Harden, Lili Taylor and Juliette Lewis) never secured regular U.S. theatrical distribution. Maybe it was a bit too ahead of its time. If enough ladies of retirement age come out to see the new Boynton Beach Club, then perhaps Seidelman will have found a new niche, better job security and her own retirement plan.

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