Saturday movie review: 'Elsa & Fred'

Ah, new love. There's the goose bumps, the first kiss, the exhilaration, the dining and dancing and deciding when the time has come to spend the night together. And, of course, there's the baggage of past relationships and the awkwardness of introducing a new love to the ol' family.

Or so it goes for young lovers in the movies.

Elsa & Fred

So goes it for older lovers in the movies now, too, namely in the movie ELSA & FRED. It's the manner in which the romantic comedy portrays older folks falling in love in the same manner young folks are often portrayed that I most appreciated about the film, a remake of the 2005 Spanish-Argentinian film, ELSA y FRED.

Elsa and Fred, played by Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer, could be plucked from the film and replaced by some young and beautiful wrinkle-free stars and the story would feel just as realistic. It wouldn't, though, be as poignant as ELSA & FRED, for it's the fact that Elsa and Fred know time is short and that their relationship is likely the very last romantic one they'll have that adds a dimension lacking in love stories starring the younger set.

In ELSA & FRED, Fred (Plummer) plays a recent widower who's moved into a new apartment building... where Elsa (MacLaine) lives as a strong, single woman. Fred is depressed, has given up on new experiences and resolved to live out his days in his recliner. MacLaine, on the other hand, wants to seize every day left. She falls in love at first sight of Fred and determines to get him out and about and making the most of what life and love has yet to offer — much to his initial resistance.


Plummer often plays the straight man in this romantic comedy, while Shirley MacLaine proves wacky in all sorts of manners I've not seen from her before. The two have chemistry and they both seem to have no qualms about showing close up and on the big screen the wrinkles, wear and tear of age on their faces, on their bodies.

Similarly, the characters of Elsa and Fred both don't seem to really give a hoot what their adult kids have to say about their budding relationship — which Elsa's son (Scott Bakula) and Fred's daughter (Marcia Gay Harden) deem inappropriate and unnecessary... "at this age."

I didn't really give a hoot about their children, either. It's those parts and performances and characters that rang false for me. I typically enjoy Scott Bakula's work and I always love Marcia Gay Harden, but both just kind of irked me here. As did Chris Noth, who plays Harden's self-centered husband. Their parts led me to wonder if the same is true of the characters in the original film.

I wouldn't say any of the actors, not even Christopher Plummer or Shirley MacLaine, gave Oscar-worthy performances. But they did provide a fun and often touching look at the possibility of love regardless of — maybe in spite of — age.

ELSA & FRED (rated PG-13 for brief strong language) was released in theaters yesterday, November 7. For more information, visit the film's official website.