Everyone knows the set-up for Our Souls At Night, right? A pair of widowed 70somethings in a small town — Jane Fonda‘s Addie Moore and Robert Redford‘s Louis Walters — decide to forego loneliness and solitude by sleeping together. Not sexually but as a simple act of comfort and companionship.
Things are a bit awkward at first but not for long. They talk a bit and then a bit more, and they get to know each other, and they gradually come to everything good that you might expect to happen between two good people.
What happens doesn’t actually amount to a whole lot, but it seems like enough. The film isn’t about hanging with Louis and Addie as much as Bob and Jane, whom some of us have come to know pretty well over the decades. Louis and Addie are less wealthy and more conservative-minded than Bob and Jane, but otherwise there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of difference. Bob and Jane are good company for each other and for us.
What we get from their relationship are little comfort pills or, if you will, little spoonfuls of honey and squeezings of lemon in our tea. They speak quietly and gently to each other, never sharply or critically or sarcastically. Familiarity, trust…nobody’s in any hurry.
Our Souls At Night experiences a couple of mild downturns, mostly by way of Louis and Addie’s resentful grown children. Louis was a less-than-perfect father to his daughter (Judy Greer), and she reminds him of that for what I presume is the 179th time. Addie’s brief lack of vigilance led to a tragedy with her daughter, and so her alcoholic, occasionally abrasive son (Matthias Schoenaerts) reminds her of that also. Bluntly, hurtfully.
Schoenaerts’ character nearly destroys Louis and Addie’s relationship, and the film with it. He’s such an astonishing alcoholic asshole, and Addie, God help her, agrees with his view that she was the cause of her daughter’s death, and so Schoenharts, furious at Addie for her horrible non-error, pressures her into separating from Louis to make up for her mistake. What bullshit! Life is shorter than short, for God’s sake. If you’ve found a good thing, never let it go.
I wanted Addie to tell Schoenharts to go fuck himself, but she feels too guilt-ridden to do anything but indulge him. I wanted Schoenharts to bless his young son Jamie (Iain Armitage) by dying in a drunken car crash or slitting his wrists in the bathtub, but alas, no. Poor Jamie is living with an abuser, and is doomed to a life of anger and resentment and Al Anon meetings.
A movie that makes you wish for the absence or the death of a bad guy and then refuses to get rid of him is not, in my book, doing the right thing.
Two or three times the movie visits a table of smug old geezers (including a toothy fuck played by Bruce Dern) as they sit in the local coffee shop, cackling and snickering about Louis and Addie. “Did you hear the one, heh-heh, about the geriatric couple that started having sex again?” I despise guys like this. Yes, assholes — Addie and I are a thing, and yes, there’s an occasional erotic component. Got a problem with that? Or something to share? Instead of making cheap cracks behind my back, man up and say it to my face.
If I’d been in Louis’s shoes once the relationship with Addie finds a groove, I would’ve said to myself, “Man, I’m really lucky to have someone as dishy and big-eyed and spiritually robust as Addie to want to hang and sleep with me. I mean, I’m 77 and a little slow on the pick-up and I wear the same flannel shirt every day, but look at her! I’ve had some eye work but she’s had a lot of great-looking work done, and her face is creamy smooth and she barely has a neck wattle. Maybe I should have done more work done on myself, at least as far as my sagging neck is concerned?”
Honestly? I didn’t much care for the opening scene when Addie knocks on Louis’s door and they start to discuss her sleep-over idea. Louis says almost nothing as she explains why she thinks it might work, and then he says, “Can I think about it?” He’s not very charming or gentlemanly. Addie has opened herself up, taken a slight risk. Would it kill Louis to ask her a few questions, offer some tea, pitch a little woo?
And then when he says, “Okay, sure, let’s give this a shot,” she asks when he wants to drop by so they can hang a bit and then slip under the covers, and Louis says “9 pm.” A gentleman would suggest a 7 pm meeting — a pleasant sit-down, maybe a light meal, a glass of wine, some soul-sharing and then, around 9 or 9:30 or 10 pm, they could go to sleep together. But no — Louis just wants to come over and crash.
Our Souls At Night tells a nice story for the most part but it doesn’t deliver much in the way of verve or wit or conversational pizazz. I wanted more dialogue, more philosophy, more reflection. It tells a nice story but everyone and everything is little too cautious, too buttoned-down.
Why don’t Louis and Addie ever discuss money? Are they both totally flush or what? Are they on tight budgets or do they have a little mad money to throw around?
It ends perfectly.