Boynton Beach Club, The (United States, 2006)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

When Boynton Beach Club began life, it was called The Boynton Beach Bereavement Club. Director Susan Seidelman, considering the somber nature of the original appellation, shortened the title with an eye toward marketing. Even with the new name, however, this will be a tough sell. It's a romantic comedy involving sixty-somethings - not exactly the kind of "hot" subject distributors are looking for. This isn't a challenging film - it goes down smoothly with only occasional lumps. Character development is perfunctory, the drama is light, and the humor is on par with that of a sit-com. The Golden Girls on the Love Boat comes to mind.

The film transpires within the confines of a Boynton Beach (Florida) retirement community, and introduces us to six characters whose paths intersect as they befriend and, in some case, romance one another. They are members of the "Boynton Beach Bereavement Club," a support group for those who have recently lost a loved one, usually a spouse. The two newest members are Jack (Len Cariou), who has just lost his wife of more than 40 years, and Marilyn (Brenda Vaccaro), whose husband is run over by a careless driver. They join veteran club members Lois (Dyan Cannon), who lost her husband and child during the past decade; Harry (Joseph Bologna), a widower who's back in the dating game; and Sandy (Sally Kellerman), whose loss isn't as straightforward as it seems to be. Also in the mix is Donald (Michael Nouri), who isn't a member of the club, but is connected in different ways to Lois and Marilyn. Take away the age factor, and this is like any other romantic comedy in which couples hook up, split apart, then come back together again in time for a happy ending.

When it comes to age-specific issues, Boynton Beach Club lobs mostly softballs. All its characters are hale and healthy. Viagra is dealt with briefly and jokingly. The loss of loved ones is handled with dignity. This is an area in which Seidelman shows insight - not only by illustrating how the characters put their lives back together, but by showing how other family members (daughters, granddaughters) cope with changes to the lives of the surviving spouse. One daughter, for example, becomes alarmed at the realization that her father may be dating less than six months after her mother's death.

Boynton Beach Club features six strong performances. The standout is Joseph Bologna, who dives into his role with relish. He makes us care about this senior citizen Lothario whose bark is worse than his bite. Len Cariou develops Jack into a sympathetic individual - the kind of guy who's so nice that it's impossible not to root for him. Dyan Cannon, as is her style, brings tremendous energy to Lois. Brenda Vaccaro's Marilyn is believable, and she's the only one without a romantic story. Michael Nouri shows that even in his 50s, he hasn't lost his leading man looks. And Sally Kellerman proves she's as brave an actress as she ever was, going so far as to appear topless at 68 years of age. (If Jessica Tandy could do a nude scene at 84, there's no reason Kellerman can't do one 16 years younger.)

Although there aren't many other recent movies for comparison, the cupboard is not entirely bare. When placed alongside similar fare, it can be seen that Boynton Beach Club lacks the wit of Something's Gotta Give and the emotional punch of Innocence. The problem with the film is that, although it is well performed and competently directed, the blandness of the result renders it easy to watch but hard to be enthusiastic about. Too often, Boynton Beach Club feels like a made-for-TV movie with a little sex, nudity, and profanity thrown in to spice things up.

Boynton Beach Club, The (United States, 2006)

Run Time: 1:38
U.S. Release Date: 2006-08-04
MPAA Rating: "R" (Sexual Situations, Profanity, Nudity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1