August 16-22, 2006

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Low-Sodium Lust

'The Boynton Beach Club': Where the women are willing, the sun always shines, and you have enough disposable income to pay for Viagra.

By Richard von Busack

WISHING DIDN'T make Snakes on a Plane a better movie. And politeness to the aged won't make Boynton Beach Club more profound than the ordinary teen date movie, even if the characters may be prepping for their upcoming date with the Reaper. The romantic problems of these retirees cannot distract us from the wide segment of cinema history director/producer/co-writer Susan Seidelman encompasses on screen.

Seidelman was one of the first indie filmmakers to emerge from New York, with 1982's Smithereens and 1985's Desperately Seeking Susan. Boynton Beach Club, co-written by her 75-year-old mother, Florence, is a tag-team movie set in a plush development for senior citizens in Florida, not to far from Boca Raton.

At the beginning, Marilyn (Brenda Vaccaro) loses her husband in a traffic accident. The death leads her into the true social circle at Boynton Beach, the Bereavement Club, where those who have lost their mates find shoulders to cry on—as well as new mates.

Women there include the 60ish hottie Lois (Dyan Cannon). Cannon has had much work done and is today as unnervingly sleek and voluptuously lipped as Mick Jagger. The best line in the film is Marilyn's assessment of Lois when she's all dressed up: "The men will all be drooling." "Big deal," Lois replies, "most of them are already drooling."

King among men in the area is Joe Bologna as Harry. He is the local senior-citizen stud, a kid in a diabetic candy store. And another resident, the grieving Jack, is played by Len Cariou, who gives the most convincing performance here. Cariou is the one who plays the scene of getting Viagra from the pharmacy; it's a late, maybe the last, version of the ancient teen-movie gag about getting condoms from the noisy pharmacist.

Seidelman has eliminated all of the parts of Florida that don't match the real-estate pamphlets. And we get no sense of what sort of lives these people had before they retired. As scriptwriters, the mother-and-daughter team has eliminated all the more interesting parts of aging—the wars with the insurance companies, the sometimes angry relations with their kids and the chance for volunteer work. While Boynton Beach Club assures us old people are vibrant and interesting, it focuses on the most commonplace part of their lives.

All we can do to fill the hollows is to remember how we all once felt about the performers. There's Cannon, who was married to Cary Grant, right in the same movie where Jack rebukes himself, "Who do you think you are, Cary Grant?" In one scene, Sally Kellerman bares her breasts. Instead of thinking "How brave, at her age," we think, so that's what the gang in Altman's M.A.S.H. worked so hard to get a look at.

Vacarro, with her throaty voice and succulent flesh, was once romanced onscreen by Robert Mitchum. Here she is, in 2006, every inch a sitcom nana. Being disinterested in Boynton Beach Club is not a matter of refusing to accept the reality of what age did to these actors. Rather, it's a case of not having a convincing enough fantasy to displace the older, more vivid images, left behind by previous movies.

Movie Times Boynton Beach Club (Unrated; 105 min.), directed by Susan Seidelman, written by Florence Seidelman, David Cramer and Shelly Gitlow, photographed by Eric Moynier and starring Joseph Bologna and Dyan Cannon, plays at selected theaters.

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