Sex and the Senior Citizen

Tweedy Old English Guy Seeks Garden-Variety Teen Hunk: John Hurt in Love and Death on Long Island.

Love and Death on Long Island
Uptown Theatre, starts Friday

Twilight
area theaters

Study suggests sex helps you live longer (Star Tribune, March 4). British researchers have found that men above a certain age who continue to have sex, on average twice a week, live up to 10 years longer than men who have sex less frequently.

Study shows movies about old guys and sex are more likely to be made than movies about old guys and no sex. Who's grumpy, Old Man? As autumn approaches, as grayness prevails, as every guy turns into a W.B. Yeats, the hope of a tryst of any kind sparks up the storyline. Forget flaccidity! Go for a twinkle in the eye and dirty words from a mouth once clean (Burgess Meredith, R.I.P.).

Study shows audiences find tweedy old English guys who fret about sex perennially funny. In Love and Death on Long Island, Giles De'Ath (John Hurt) is a stuffy, widowed novelist with a high reputation but nary a clue as to modern life, until a mistakenly purchased movie ticket brings him under the spell of a garden-variety teen hunk, Ronnie Bostock (Jason Priestley), starring in Hotpants College II. Seeing in him a resemblance to pre-Raphaelite hunks, De'Ath ("pronounced 'De-Ayth'") projects all manner of foolish desire on this cipher.

Study shows guys like to look and then possibly touch. Giles starts with scrapbooks, turns to videos and collages (Ronnie's head atop a simple line sketch of a nude), and then turns to tourism when he shows up in Chesterton, Long Island, and lurks in the woods around Ronnie's house. Feigning bemusement and claiming a Bostock-adoring niece who doesn't exist, Giles inveigles himself into Ronnie's life. He has plans for schooling, for Shakespeare, for an empty spot in the bed back home.

Study shows English filmmakers find American pop-culture trash a harmless guilty pleasure. Bostock's accidental beauty has no link to an actual brain, nor any sense that his vision of life ends beyond his own nose or the next two months. Yet the camera lingers on Ronnie, and shows Giles swept up in this foolishness--and despite the hint of droll satire, the movie seems to think what Giles wants is worth having.

Study shows drollery as low-impact fuel for narrative engines. Audiences who can laugh at jokes about VCRs flashing "12:00" all the time, or who forget the raging lion that John Hurt can be on stage or screen, may find sustenance in the unending whimsy of Love and Death on Long Island. Audiences who expect Giles's surname to pay off in something more than silly wish-fulfillment will discover that drollery and 99 cents will let you say "Yo quiero Taco Bell."

Study shows guys who like to look at more than nude bodies gain new lease on life. In Twilight, Harry Ross (Paul Newman), in the possible twilight of a life, gets to look at two naked ladies in the course of his work. In fact, one is the daughter (Reese Witherspoon) of the other (Susan Sarandon), and he's kind of skittish about it both times. Seeing the daughter (while rounding her up in Mexico) once cost him his life's work and possibly his manhood, and seeing the mother costs him temporary loss of morality. But Harry looks at other stuff, too; he remembers it, and that's why he was and will continue to be a good private eye. (Also because he's Paul Newman.)

Study shows old guys need to feel they have something in their pants. Realizing something's fishy about what the Sarandon character's husband (Gene Hackman) asks him to deliver, Harry stumbles on murders and dark plots based on misdeeds from 20 years ago. However, also realizing that his former cop colleagues presume he's no longer a full-grown man, Harry has a few laughs with Verna (Stockard Channing), still a cop, who arrests, pities, and then appreciates him anew when she discovers that Harry can still "take her to Catalina."

Studies show older women of a certain age who want something in their men's pants don't count in the movies, Gloria Stuart to the contrary. See: Newman/Sarandon, Beatty/Bening, Nicholson/Hunt, Lemmon/Ann-Margret. At least Julie Christie got the best of both Nick Nolte and Jonny Lee Miller in Afterglow.

Study shows Paul Newman's eyes and charitable politics compensate for a flimsy vehicle, regardless of what's in his pants. Working with a host of fellow talent (Sarandon, Hackman, James Garner, Giancarlo Esposito, Liev Schreiber, and director Robert Benton), Newman shoulders the only hint of drama in the whole movie. He deserves more than this genre rehash but does with it what he can. Hackman, meanwhile, spends much of his time in pajamas or on his back. So much for Oscar-worthy talent.

Study shows screenwriters of aging characters often bankrupt when it comes to going beyond sex and the senior citizen.

 
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