Aging: The Good, the Bad and the Hollywood Version

Someone please give Michael Douglas a hug. Aging, of course, isn’t easy but, according to the 69-year-old actor, it’s a downright drag.

“It’s very depressing,” he said in a recent British interview, “so you can make a comedy about it and get it all out. But it’s very hard to find anything positive about getting old.” So says the mega-star married to the Oscar-winning beauty 25 years his junior.

His attitude, however, does explain the 2013 flick Last Vegas – where  60-something buddies hit Sin City before Douglas’s character gets hitched. The movie is symptomatic of an increasing Hollywood penchant for boomer flicks: films focused on aging-related issues and featuring the 45-plus set in prominent leading roles.

The 2003 romantic comedy Something’s Gotta Give, starring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton as boomer lovebirds, started the trend, which has steadily increased despite the fact that too few like-minded films focus on the gritty realities of aging.

Granted “Hey everyone, come watch this movie about a character with crippling dementia!” isn’t quite as enticing as, say, a comedy about a home for aging opera singers (Quartet), or a retiree heist flick (Love Punch) or two old boxing rivals stepping back in the ring (Grudge Match).

But just as you have to, figuratively, spill a little blood to make an accurate war movie, aging’s unpleasant truths deserve meaningful exploration. That means (avert your eyes, Mr. Douglas) a cinematic dialogue on issues from mental illness to physical decline to loneliness and depression.

The 2012 French drama Amour, the tale of an elderly couple struggling with caregiving and dementia, is a perfect example that also raked in the accolades during award season.

2013 brought the Canuck film Still Mine, the true story of an octogenarian who builds a house for his ill wife; Unfinished Song, starring Terence Stamp as a cantankerous soon-to-be widower; and 77-year-old Bruce Dern’s Oscar-nominated turn as an alcoholic father in Nebraska.

Early 2014 releases tackle everything from an ailing widow’s dysfunctional family reunion (August: Osage County) to an aged writer confronting his empty existence (The Great Beauty) to an elderly gay man’s bittersweet affair with a teenage caregiver (Gerontophilia).

It’s a promising sign moving forward because, while old age can be depressing, with the right script and a big bowl of popcorn, it can also make for one heck of a movie.

Zoomer magazine, March 2014