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Rainer Werner Fassbinder
At a family reunion, the Cooper clan find that their parents' home is being foreclosed. "Temporarily," Ma moves in with son George's family, Pa with daughter Cora. But the parents are like sand in the gears of their middle-aged children's well regulated households. Can the old folks take matters into their own hands? Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
One of the few American movies to look seriously (and reasonably honestly) at old age, this 1937 melodrama won wonderful reviews, but apparently it was so sad that audiences couldn't bear to look at it. While McCarey was justly celebrated for his sensitive direction, let's start with the shrewd, shaded screenplay, where nobody's entirely good or bad: The children do mean well, but let selfishness intervene; the aged parents are victims, but they're also unavoidably inconvenient and occasionally annoying. It is, unfortunately, a timeless topic -- parents turning into dependent children, children turning into their parents' parents, and the government yammering ineffectually about the problem decade after decade.
McCarey spins the tale out with subtle humor -- just a wink from Victor Moore, a visual aside by Beulah Bondi, says more than several lines of dialogue would. Plus, this is a couple whose passion has survived the years; they can't keep their hands off each other. The notion's a bit hard to swallow, perhaps a contrivance to tilt the viewer's sympathies more in their direction and away from the thoughtless middle-aged kids. But it does work dramatically and makes the last 20 minutes or so almost unbearably poignant. And the last shot, of Bondi, is unforgettable; it's up there with Garbo in "Queen Christina."
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