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November 01, 2013

Last Love

last love 1.jpg

Sandra Nettlebeck - 2013
Image Entertainment

The older, retired professor, Matthew, and his much younger friend, Pauline, are stuck in the rain outside of Paris, when Matthew's car conks out. Pauline is offered a ride by a man close to her age. When she asks Matthew if he thinks the man providing the ride is handsome, he says yes, "in a George Hamilton sort of way". Pauline responds, "Who's George Hamllton?".

Which reminds me of a time when a coworker once asked, "Who's Michael Caine?". (Yes, it's true.)

This was before Caine's turn as Alfred the butler, so maybe his question was answered. Sort of.

For those of us who "discovered" Michael Caire around the time of Alfie, we get to see Caine in a leading role at least one more time. The last love is actually his dead wife, played by Jane Alexander. And maybe it's because I'm getting older, too, but there is delight in seeing them both and together on film. Alexander appears by Caine's side, giving counsel when necessary. There is one very nice moment when Caine is walking alone in Paris, and in close-up, you see his hand grasping hers.

Caine's character, Matthew, is still in mourning, three years on, when Pauline, who he meets on a bus, ingratiates herself into his life. Their relationship isn't exactly a romance, as much as it is an intense kind of friendship. Pauline teaches social dancing, and in what comes as close as this film will get to an action scene, teaches Matthew how to line dance. Who knew that there were Parisians who enjoy American country music?

I wish that Sandra Nettlebeck had revised her screenplay just a little bit. Matthew is suppose to be a retired American professor. Michael Caine's voice is so distinctive, and he's not attempting to disguise his Cocney accent here. Gillian Anderson has a small role as Matthew's daughter, nothing much to display her own considerable acting chops. I assume she signed on simply for the opportunity to work with Caine. Even if that was the case, Last Love isn't the kind of embarrassment on an actor's resume, as was the case of, for example, The Betsy, probably the low point in Laurence Olivier's career, and the lure that brought in a cast that should have known better, including, yipes, Jane Alexander.

Disappointingly, this film is not as good as Mostly Martha, Sandra Nettlebeck's international hit from a decade ago. Nothing really jells here, not the friendship between the American who virtually refuses to learn French in spite of living in France for years - with a young woman who mangles English language idiomatic expressions, nor the tension between the aging father with his son and daughter who resent his physical and emotional distance. Last Love is rewardingly most alive in those few scenes shared by Caine and Alexander.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 1, 2013 07:33 AM