The ladies of Boynton Beach are like the Sex and the City crew of the shuffleboard set only the squeaky clean TBS-version, without all the HBO naughtiness.
Boynton Beach Club is the sweet story of a group of widows and widowers who cope with loss and relearn the rules of romance as they mingle at a seniors' bereavement group in a sunny Florida retirement community. The movie never hits harder than a Bea Arthur sitcom, and but its messages will easily hit home with AARP-card-carrying moviegoers who rarely have a decent movie made for their demographic.
Writer and director Susan Seidelman based the story on her mom Florence's adventures. She tries to inject some realism and defy some stereotypes of over-55ers, but it's done with featherweight effort. Many characters share the cookie-cutter plight of the generic movie widow or widower: Women can't balance their checkbooks and bemoan losing husbands who handled the family business affairs; the men complain they can't cook or do their own laundry. One would think that such complaints come a generation late, and that women and men who came of age in the '60s would be a bit more capable and worldly by 2006.
Thankfully, though, not all the characters fit so neatly into typical age and gender roles. Lois (Dyan Cannon) is a firecracker who runs her own business and encourages other widowed women to get out there and become more independent. At 69, Cannon still bears a trademark wide smile and mane of blonde curly locks that have rendered men weak-kneed since long before Ally McBeal was a twinkle in David E. Kelley's eye. (Her last big role was as a feisty, sexy judge on the '90s sitcom.) As Lois, she dons a wardrobe of impossibly skinny jeans and impossibly tall stilettos.
Some of the comedy in Boynton Beach, however, tends to feel antique. Over the course of the movie, the grieving men and women have all manner of mishaps, proving that generic romantic comedy clichés apply easily to any age group.
Seidelman's work stands out, however, when she captures authentic moments when her characters seem contemporary, such as a scene with Harry (Joseph Bologna), a veteran widower who's been around the block a few times. He coaches newbie Jack (Len Cariou) before a date and advises him to "go buy some rubbers." There's "a lot of bad stuff out there" and older girls get around too, he says.
Another true moment comes when Jack's love interest, Sandy (Sally Kellerman) bares her breasts, saggy as they are, in a seduction scene that recalls Kellerman's '70s topless moment as Maj. Margaret "Hot Lips" O'Houlihan in M*A*S*H. She and Cariou play out this scene with tenderness and sensitivity.
These hot flashes are few, however. Seidelman mostly plays it safe, delivering nothing risqué enough to require blood pressure meds. Boynton Beach doesn't dig too deeply into mourning, loss and baby boomers' sexuality, instead boiling down to a cute, passable comedy about the social trappings of widowhood.
Showing at the Maple Art Theatre (4135 W. Maple Rd., Bloomfield Hills; 248-263-2111).
Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].