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"Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at
close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light." - Dylan
The senior characters of this modern day fable took this poem to heart.
When we first meet the motley group, they are as many of us dread one day becoming. Kept in a nursing home, days filled with vapid activities like shuffleboard or mah-jongg, whiling away hours floating in a deserted swimming pool, watching people your own age drop like flies. When that changes through the magic of alien technology, they become, if not the picture of reckless youth, at least a semblance of the people they were once upon a time, proving the old cliché: you ARE only as old as you feel. In that, it's a good lesson for people heading into their golden years or even those of us just having midlife crises. We can't help but grow old. But it's up to us whether we want to BE old or merely mature.
For a science fiction movie, it would appear to have few special effects. This is an illusion. There are quite a few effects shots, although the variety of effects is rather limited. The glowing aliens are quite good except for the all too familiar hand movements by Caprice Rothe, who first did the job for "E.T." Still, by and large the effects are impressive and convincing even when compared against the latest films of the 21st century. Even more impressive was the poolhouse, which was hastily constructed purely as a setpiece for the movie. It looks absolutely real, as if it had sat there among the Florida palms for decades.
Tahnee Welch, daughter of the seemingly ageless Raquel, was wholesomely fetching here. Whether she was a limited actress or merely underplaying the role is for others to decide. Ron Howard wisely kept Steve Guttenberg's role limited, focusing mainly on the older characters. A little Guttenberg goofiness goes a long way. Also present are the standard Howard family repertory, with brother Clint as the nursing home attendant and father Rance making a brief appearance as a detective. Much as already been said about the excellent performances of the older cast members. This was, after all, the role that finally won an Oscar for Don Ameche. But they're slowly slipping away from us, one by one. First Jack Gilford, then Ameche, then Jessica Tandy and recently Gwen Verdon. At least we'll have this movie to remember them by. Maybe they weren't at the peaks of their careers, but quite possibly the roles they fit most comfortably.
Two attempts to cash in on this movie failed. Both 1987's "*batteries Not Included," starring Tandy and Cronyn, and the 1988 sequel "Cocoon: The Return" flopped. Neither had the genuine warmth of this original. Ron Howard showed good judgement in turning down the chance to direct the sequel.
As for the musical score, it's one of James Horner's better works, mixing symphonic grandeur with childlike wonderment. Alas, he does fall into old habits and reuse some bars and measures from his "Wolfen" and "Star Trek II" scores.
It's a shame this movie never found the audience it deserved. I first saw this in a shopping mall four-plex a couple of weeks after its release. There couldn't have been more than 20 people in the entire theater. The whole movie holds up remarkably well in the 16 years since, except for the break dancing. My god, has it been 16 years already? Where can I find some Antarean life force?
Cocoon is a charming science fiction fable by the underrated Ron
Howard. Howard is an amiable, frequently baseball-capped figure who, in
the 70's, became a familiar face through his 6 year stint as Richie in
TV's Happy Days. Cocoon followed immediately after Splash! (1984),
another successful fantasy. It exchanges the Tom Hanks figure featured
in that film with a similar one played by Steve Guttenberg, another
romantic innocent. But whereas in the earlier film Hanks had a central
role, here Jack Bonner (Guttenberg) has far less prominence. This is
perhaps because of Guttenberg's modest acting abilities, but
principally so the narrative can focus more securely on the characters
that matter the community of senior citizens facing their twilight
years at the Sunny Shores Retirement Center.
Cocoon's achievement as a film is all the more remarkable when one reflects upon the scarcity of active, old people in American cinema, let alone a group of them presented so positively in a state of sexual re awakening, then led to such an upbeat conclusion. Behind this apparent optimism, however, the thoughtful viewer can still reflect on some final doubts and uncertainties.
The central circle of old people, around whom events turn, together prove a fine acting ensemble. Arthur (a still svelte Don Ameche), Ben (Selwyn Wilford Brimley) Jo (Hume Cronyn), Bernie (Walter Gilford), Alma (Jessica Tandy), Bess (Gwen Verdon) and the others are a convincing unit, squabbling, relating and facing the end of their lives with cantankerous dignity which is entirely convincing. Tandy and Cronyn were married in real life. Many of film's most poignant moments of the film spring from the relationships between these people. The quiet passing of Rose for instance, and her husband's grief by her bedside. Notable too is the wooing by former song and dance man Ameche of his new lady love, a process during which he shows no lessening of time-honed screen courtesy and assurance. During the opening of the film, Arthur and Jo's witnessing of an unsuccessful resuscitation is a stark reminder of the mortality of the principals, sadly off and on screen. Cocoon was a last hurrah for many of the elderly cast (although one or two survived advancing years to appear in the terrible Cocoon 2(1988)).
The other major character group are the Antareans. Here too a refreshing leap out of the stereotypical is taken as the aliens prove reasonable, non aggressive and forgiving perhaps characteristics inspired by Spielberg's influential and amenable ET (1982) or the religiosity of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). Jack Bonner's near hysterical reaction to their initial unmasking ('If you try and eat my face off you'll be very, very sorry'), his following conversion then inevitable dalliance, are all handled with an effective lightness. Even Howard's depiction of an alien orgasm on screen as Jack romances Kitty (Tahnee Welch) without touching, in the life giving pool, is done sensitively. It is perhaps the most striking moment of its sort in Science Fiction cinema since Woody Allen's Sleeper (1973). Cocoon is a film in which sexual energy is equated closely to an amplified life force and is seen as both positive and welcome. Both young and old feel the replenishment of their passion, directly or indirectly, in connection with the cocoon tank. Here the items retrieved from the sea are settled at the bottom, somewhat ominous reminders of a life to come. The title itself is suggestive, not only of the typical dormacy of a chrysalis, but of impending rebirth such an object heralds. As the oldsters rejuvenate with the 'fountain of youth', they find new meaning and value in their lives, a belated development which even leads to the sad break up of families. The desire for life can be selfish, even when healthily expressed, and some prefer to 'stick with the hand nature has given' them.
The Antarean's recovery of their 'ground crew' is what brings them to earth. While their leader's account of them having originally lodged themselves in what was Atlantis is slightly hoary (their bases apparently having sunk during the 'first great upheaval') the film wisely seers away from too much alien hardware. Apart from the pretty device on the deck of Bonner's boat, and the splendours of the returning mother ship, very little technology is glimpsed. The Antareans are certainly strange, but lacking much hard evidence of their difference enables the audience to relate to them easily. Even their unskinning, as they emerge as their true, shining selves, is a wonderous event, a shining transfiguration with no implicit threat to humanity.
These are aliens associated with whiteness and with life, forgiving and considerate, exhibiting 'christian' values. They radiate and float like angels when emerging from human covering, and their ship takes the departing OAPs up into the light. Hollywood readily associates such light with the rewards of heaven (for other examples of the brilliance bestowed upon the departing see The Frighteners (1996) or Jacob's Ladder (1990). Substitute the pool of life for baptism, the smiling Walter (Brian Dennehy) for a prophet, and Cocoon's alien spaceship might just as easily be the Gabriel leading the faithful to paradise.
But what of the end of the film? Is it really as happy and as affirmative as it first seems? Bonner has made great play with his responsibility as a skipper in an earlier scene with Kitty. At the conclusion he might, therefore, reasonably be held to account for his loss of a cargo of elderly transportees. At least one extended family is broken up by their leaving. And Walter has to return home, his mission a failure, together with a boatload of unexpected guests. At the least the final ascension is a complex event, leaving some tensions unresolved. That Cocoon manages to hold all these elements together in a satisfying whole is one reason to seek it out. To enjoy a warm hearted family film is another.
This is one of my all-time favorite movies, for a variety of reasons: A) It treats the theme of aging with such tenderness and doesn't reduce the older characters to props, B) It evokes questions about the supernatural/the possibility of life "out there," and C) The location (Florida) looks so pleasant and inviting. I have loved this film since I was a child in the 80s, and it is still one that I watch over and over (and I still cry at the same spots every time). I have to also say that--in my opinion at least--the characteristic feature of every great movie is a great score/theme melody. Cocoon definitely has it, yet without feeling "epic" and overpowering; the same plucked melody chimes in quietly at all the right moments in the film, lending a profound and quiet connection with each character (even the extra-terrestrial ones). There are moments in this film where, if you don't shed a tear, there must be something wrong with you. Highly recommended film :-)
COCOON is not at all similar to every other science fiction movie (the ending is a pure exception), but this uses fantasy and magic as a way to express a heartwarmth feeling. What happens when the good elderly citizens of a retirement community discover the "fountain of youth"? It's movies like this going away from the perilous trap and concentrates deeply on our human characteristics. A large cast of older stars, including the late couple Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, contribute to the warmth and amusement of a non-violent "sci-fi" picture that is a breed apart from the rest. They act as if they're "young again" with incredible energy, and the moments offer the kind and gentle possibilities that wouldn't redeem this as science fiction, but it is. Ron "Ritchie" Howard gives this a whole new acclaim for internally giving us the human spirit that lies within an outside force. For those who crave hard on science fiction, COCOON is a slight misunderstanding due to the light-hearted story it has to offer. What's more entertaining than seeing old folks push over the limits of their acting potential? As Wilford Brimley once said in Quaker Oats commercials, "It's the right thing to do.". Which also means COCOON is the right movie for showing off a different dimension of our feelings inside. And different is right!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Movie about some adventureous older people who discovered the fountain of
youth. Of course, as with anything too good to be true, the fountain turned
out to be a life support tank for aliens! The life support tank was a
swimming pool which contained some mysterious energy to bring back ancient
alien comrads which were contained in some large seed-like pods. The
mysterious energy also had the ability to give life back to the elderly
humans who stumbled on it. Of course the aliens discover that the older
people are having a good time with with this scenerio. To say more would be
to give away the important messages the movie is trying to present.
May not be the best movie ever made, but far better than average. It showed both the young at heart and the old, even though all of them were physically old. I'm not that old but it makes you appreciate what getting old is about. Remember that when you see an elderly person, some of them may be old but some of them are more alive then people much younger. Don't just respect them but indulge them.
Ron howard rarely disappoints.
Made 20 years ago with some former well-known actors, this film has stood
the test of time very well and delivers a very interesting and
thought-provoking story about the mortality of man.
A group of people in a retirement village discover a neighbouring swimming pool which is out of bounds, but they have fun in it nevertheless. There are some strange objects lying on the bottom of the pool, but even more strange is the fact that after swimming there the old folk feel transformed and the vigor of their youth returns to their bodies. This makes for some light comedy as their hormones begin to take over.
These old people have a very serious decision to make and it is not an easy one. This is probably the best part of the film. Should they accept or decline the invitation? Having made the decision there is no turning back! We ask ourselves...what would we do placed in their circumstances? We feel very much involved. Thinking it over, isn't this proposal very much like what the Christian churches are promising us?
The final memorial church service by the sea is such a fitting ending and the little grandson David gives such a knowing smile as he raises his eyes to the sky.
Some seniors find the long sought-after Fountain of Youth by accident,
just by regularly sneaking into a neighbor's pool. I don't know if I'd
swim in a pool that has moss-covered boulders tossed into it, but these
guys do, and find their youthful vitality returning.
Unbeknownst to the men, aliens on a mission have rented the neighbor's place, and set up the pool as their base of operations. Fortunately, these were post-ET/Close Encounters beings, so they had benevolent intentions.
Great cast of some familiar faces, and the screen chemistry of the cast members is wonderful as they range from highly emotional to contentious in their interaction. The nursing home residents are marvelous in portraying their renewed joy of life. Don Ameche is dashing with the ladies, and acts the role of a youthful character very well. Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Mareen Stapleton, and Wilford Brimley are all great. However, the movie is certainly not all a feel-good warm fuzzies type of story; there are some sad tragedies that occur as the plot moves forward.
My one criticism is that the film lacks the courage to address its central theme, the idea of eternal life, only skirting its ramifications. Only one character rejects the idea, but generic platitudes (like "belonging here") he says explain nothing of his reasoning. The film doesn't analyze the people who desire immortality enough, either. We get a few morsels about missing baseball, fishing, and grandchildren. But this shallow analysis gives insufficient insight to this infinitely critical decision the characters are faced with.
It's an interesting tale, with a bittersweet message about our own mortality. A well done production that has you wishing the best for the characters, and contemplating what you might do if you were in their shoes.
This film completely surprised me first time. I thought it was your usual
silly alien film - but it is so much more then that - and if it is
the brilliant Ron Howard makes it all believable. Two things stand out
among all else - the fantastic score (one of the best I have ever heard)
superb ending - which was one of the most original endings - possibly
I just can't say enough about just how good this film is.
As far as performances go I was particularly surprised by the acting of the senior citizens especially Jack Gilford as the miserable old codger Bernie - I love it when he completely breaks down and softens after spending an hour and 20 minutes as the most awful old man you could ever have the misfortune to bump into - the transformation was immediate but so believable - and I personally think that performance was worthy of a supporting actor oscar.
Also Brian Dennehy, Wilford Brimley, Don Ameche and Steve Guttenburg were also excellent.
An all round fantastic film which everyone can enjoy - all ages
1985's Cocoon, directed by Ron Howard, asks - would you give up the
emotional, mental and physical pain of growing old if you could? Baby
boomers today feel that death is optional and seek out whatever it
takes to make them feel and look young - so if Cocoon came out in 2008,
it would perhaps resonate even more.
The story takes place in a rest home inhabited by a group of friends: Arthur (Don Ameche), Benjamin (Wilford Brimley) and his wife Marilyn (Maureen Stapleton), Joseph (Hume Cronyn) and his wife Alma (Jessica Tandy) and a perky red-head Bess (Gwen Verdon). The guys have taken to going to an abandoned pool house and swimming - without permission, of course. Then the building is rented by a man (Brian Dennehy). This same man also rents a boat from Jack Bonner (Steve Guttenberg), who is down on his luck and can use the money. He watches Jack, his beautiful assistant Kitty (Tahnee Welch) and some other people skindiving and bringing up huge silver packages. These packages are then dumped into the pool. After the men swim there one day, they find themselves suddenly rejuvenated and start having sex, staying up, nightclubbing and having more energy. Meantime, on the boat, Jack has gotten a look at Kitty getting ready for bed...and notices that she removes her skin as well as her clothes and glows in the dark.
This movie has many poignant moments - Alma coming to grips with the fact that her husband has always cheated, and the saddest of all, when Bernard (Jack Gilford) who has been violently opposed to the whole idea of the pool as a fountain of youth, desperately brings his wife there.
Howard cast this with an eye toward man's normal immortality - children - with Raquel Welch's daughter and Tyrone Power's son, Tyrone Power Jr. as Pillsbury - while telling the story of people who have a chance at a different kind of immortality. Both Power and Welch bear strong resemblance to their famous parents. The old-timers in the cast are among the greatest actors of their generation and sadly, we've lost nearly all of them now. Only Wilford Brimley remains. The film revived Don Ameche's career, and the cast returned for a sequel, "Cocoon: The Return." A wonderful film to see the old stars in a very touching story and to ask yourself - if you had the chance, would you take it?
Six elderly people (Oscar-winner Don Ameche in more of a lifetime achievement award, Wilford Brimley, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Maureen Stapleton and Gwen Verdon) start swimming at a locked up housed swimming pool that has strange pods in it and then start doing things that contradict their ages. Of course the pods really house aliens from another planet and they are the reasons for the "fountain of youth". Ron Howard's sympathetic and clever direction saves this uneven project that starts out as a pure comedy and then turns into a rough drama as the clock ticks away. Brian Dennehy and Steve Guttenberg shine in smart supporting roles. 4 stars out of 5.
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