Narrowly avoiding, yet sometimes embracing, stereotypes about the elderly, Stéphane Robelin brings us a lightweight comedy aimed at all ages.
Getting old isn’t what it used to be. Despite several world wars and health epidemics, the average life expectancy around the world has almost doubled from 31 in the early 20th century to 67 just one hundred years later. In France, the robust health care system means that this average is even higher, a whopping 78 years for men and 85 years for women. This begs the question of what people are to do with their extra years, and filmmaker Stéphane Robelin attempts to explore this dilemma within the wrapper of a light comedy.
Despite fancying himself as something of a revolutionary, Jean (Guy Bedos) lives with his wife Annie (Geraldine Chaplin) in a fairly large and luxurious house. Meanwhile, their friend Albert (Pierre Richard) is growing increasingly senile, and his otherwise outgoing wife Jeanne (Jane Fonda) refuses any treatment for her cancer. When widower and Claude (Claude Rich) suffers a heart attack while visiting a prostitute, the friends rally round to save him from a retirement home and all live together. With the help of postgraduate research student Dirk (Daniel Brühl), they form an unconventional commune as past secrets emerge.
Once the initial run of gags around sex-crazed old people are done and dusted – by way of the familiar dramatic MacGuffins of impotency, dementia and of course, cancer – there’s an emotional core to this most French of comedies. Strongly reminiscent of a lightweight version of Denys Arcand’s The Barbarian Invasions (2003), Robelin’s film lacks the same holistic view of a generation, playing more for the immediate laughs and the occasional bit of slapstick. Bathed in a summer glow that lasts throughout their entire year, the only true aim of And If We All Lived Together? is to make a grab for the same pensioner coin that pleased audiences in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
Filled with several centuries worth of acting experience, the central performances bolster the often twee material. Significantly, this is Fonda’s first return to French cinema since starring in Jean-Luc Godard’s film Tout Va Bien (1972), although she effortlessly slips in amongst the native French cast, only the strong will of her character setting her apart from the rest of the gang. This may be familiar and lack ambition, but it is also mostly free of pretentiousness, content to simply spend time with a group of collectively likable and inoffensive
And If We All Lived Together? (Et si on vivait tous ensemble?) is released in Australia on 26 July 2012 from Madman.