Getting old’s a bitch. But the long-in-the-tooth quintet (Chaplin, Fonda, Guy Bedos, Claude Rich and Pierre Richard) at the center of Stéphane Robelin’s featherweight French comedy has it all figured out. Instead of wasting away in musty retirement homes, these two married couples and their lothario friend will move in together and take care of each other. Sounds like a good idea, but the sitcom stresses quickly come to bear: an overflowing bathtub that floods the house; arguments about whether or not to put in a pool; years-long infidelities coming to light. All of it is taped by an inquisitive grad student (Brühl) working on his master’s degree. It’s The Real World: D’un Certain Age.
Yet like that manipulative MTV staple, you can’t help but get caught up in the shenanigans, and it’s mostly thanks to the film’s two luminous leading ladies. Chaplin is an impish delight with her take-no-guff attitudinizing, and the sequence in which she seductively defuses a fight with her brusque spouse is both hilarious and a moving depiction of twilight-years intimacy. Meanwhile, Fonda struts like a pure movie star through her first European role since Godard and Gorin’s Tout va bien (1972), lending a light-touch dignity and resonant gravity to a creakily conceived character. (Let’s just say those X-rays she’s looking at early on are the equivalent of a telegraphing tubercular cough.) Even playing squarely to the middlebrow, this iconic performer can still make the heart skip a beat.
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