More and more these days, A-list Hollywood stars of yesteryear are bringing their latest releases not to the local mall or art house but directly to the Internet. This list only begins with Jane Fonda, Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, and Chris Rock.
Let’s start with Jane Fonda. Not only is she starring with Lily Tomlin in GRACE AND FRANKIE, a laugh-out-loud-funny TV series. She and Robert Redford appear in OUR SOULS AT NIGHT. They play senior citizens, both widowed. They may be long-time next door neighbors but they also are strangers, and the scenario follows what happens when they attempt to connect with each other. Now given their ages-- both are in their early ‘80s-- the masses of moviegoers will not line up at the local movie house to savor the latest Fonda and Redford feature. They may have years ago when they appeared in THE CHASE and BAREFOOT IN THE PARK, both from the mid-1960’s, and THE ELECTRIC HORSEMAN, from 1979. But times do change, and both are smart enough to know that they will draw far more viewers on TV rather than in theaters. Such is the business of show business in 2018 and so, here are Redford and Fonda playing age-appropriate characters in OUR SOULS AT NIGHT.
Fifty years ago-- 1968, to be exact-- Dustin Hoffman won everlasting stardom in THE GRADUATE. His character, Benjamin Braddock, was 20-going-on-21-years-old. Now, here he is in THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES (NEW AND SELECTED), playing a cranky, egocentric artist who is the father of both Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller. MEYEROWITZ STORIES... was written and directed by Noah Baumbach, whose films also usually open theatrically. Both OUR SOULS AT NIGHT and MEYEROWITZ STORIES... are well-done and, at their best, moving tales spotlighting various aspects of human nature and human relationships. Both are well-worth seeing and pondering.
Speaking of Adam Sandler, he and Chris Rock co-star in yet one more direct-to-internet feature. This one is titled THE WEEK OF, and it is a typically cornball, tasteless Adam Sandler concoction. Plus, THE WEEK OF is loaded with endless, shameless product-placement. Now it wasn’t that long-ago that the latest films starring Sandler and Rock would have been automatic theatrical draws. But time passes. Here, they play fathers whose offsprings are of marriage age. So it is not at all surprising that THE WEEK OF comes directly to the small screen.
Now of course, not all films with senior citizen casts avoid movie houses. One example is BOOK CLUB, starring Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candace Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen. Its supporting roles are played by names and faces from the past, including Andy Garcia, Craig T. Nelson, Don Johnson, Ed Begley, Jr., Wallace Shawn, and Richard Dreyfuss. In THE GRADUATE, a young, unknown Richard Dreyfuss appears oh so briefly as a college student and rooming house resident, and he even has a line or two. Who knew back then that he was a future star and Academy Award winner-to-be? Well, that was a half-century ago...
Rob Edelman teaches film history courses at the University at Albany. He has contributed to many arts and baseball-related publications; his latest book, which he co-edited, is From Spring Training To Screen Test: Baseball Players Turned Actors. His frequent collaborator is his wife, fellow WAMC film commentator Audrey Kupferberg.
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