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Frank, a retired Irish seaman, and Walter, a retired Cuban barber, are two lonely old men trapped in the emptiness of their own lives. When they meet in a park Frank is able to start a conversation after several attempts. They begin to spend time together and become friends. But because of their different characters they often quarrel with each other and finally seperate after Frank misbehaves to Walter's friend Elaine. Written by
Matthias Scheler <email@example.com>
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[a very drunk Frank singing in the park]
I'm sweet Willy McGhee, I set sail for the sea / A man fit for sailin', my cock's fit for whalin', my balls they weigh seventy pounds apiece! / If you know any ladies, that want to make babies, send them to see Willy McGhee.
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Even though Duvall's fake, middle class Cuban accent was not right on the money all the time, he portrayed his obsessive/compulsive, retired gentleman character's odd and gentle affectations to the letter and was totally believable and the best thing in this movie, along with Shirley Maclaine in her tough/nice landlady role as Cooney. Duvall played his character Walt as an intensely honorable man raised in the strictest form of old Spanish "gentilhombre" tradition prevalent in pre-Castro Cuba. He left Cuba for America to see the Yankees in the 1958 World Series, and never returned as the Communist revolution occurred at the same time, preventing his return. As he was a true gentleman, when there was such a thing, he was not to be personally insulted or touched in anger by any man or be at all discourteous to women or tolerate such behavior by other men, and any such coarse behavior in his presence was sure to cause an altercation, and perhaps even a physical one. To him, true gentlemen were protectors of the innocence and dignity of women in his well-defined world of gentility and respect.
Harris' sloppy and crude character Frank, who was achingly lonely but showed good reason for his alone-ness in his selfishness and eccentricity, was sure to aggravate Walt in short order with his cursing and coarse behavior. Harris' role was really not too much of an acting stretch for this famous rounder in real life, but he was still very effective in conveying the angst of loss of a meaningful life and family love.
Their short friendship leading to the inevitable conflict was so touching and sad in its honesty and spot-on emotional accuracy when men of a very different style finally clash and part. The same or similar thing has happened to many of us at one time or another in life, so most viewers will connect with its truth and emotional impact. It was nice to see them reconnect after Frank essentially apologized to Walt in the only way he could, obliquely.
The film had a relaxed and almost "retired" pacing, never boring to me but perfectly in tune with day to day retired living in the Miami area, or anywhere. Three scenes of the men together were particularly memorable for their sensitivity and insight.... the fireworks scene, the haircut/shave scene, and the scene where Frank "apologized" to Walt after their argument and afterward they both danced with little girls in a park. Watch for these scenes as they come up as they are crucial to story development. Just great film-making.
This film was one of the best I have seen in depicting how differing people retire from useful professions and then fade from being productive social contributors into their respective, more or less useless retired ways, with some fighting and struggling the whole way and others accepting their fate with gentleness and realization of the inevitability of life. We are all like these film characters in some ways, or will be, and seeing in the film what awaits us all in an older age was not always a pretty sight, but it was always very engaging and touching. We truly cared for the characters in this film....the primary mark of a successful story.
A wonderful film not to be missed by anyone over 50.
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