‘Boynton Beach Club’ highlights retirement years


Retirement never looked so good as in Susan Seidelman’s true life-inspired Boynton Beach Club. The ensemble comedy looks at finding a second chance at love and life among widows and widowers in a Florida retirement community. They may have retired to Florida but they are not done yet.

Set in a retirement community in Florida, this saucy romantic comedy sets out to show us that love knows no age and people have resilient hearts. Marilyn (Brenda Vaccaro) and her husband have a happy, long marriage and are now enjoying a comfortable life in Florida’s Boynton Beach retirement community. But Marilyn’s world is turned upside down when her husband is killed by an inattentive motorist. Like many women her age, she does not even drive and has never balanced a check book. Her daughter wants her to come live with them but she is sure this is not what she wants. Amidst all the confusion and stress of her family still staying with her and urging her to move up north with them, a kind-hearted woman named Lois (Dyan Cannon) appears at her door with a condolence gift basket and an invitation to join the Boynton Beach Bereavement Club.

The ensemble cast of widows and widowers meet at the Boynton Beach Bereavement Club, which becomes a center for both friendships and re-exploring romance. Marilyn, Lois, Harry (Joseph Bologna), Jack (Len Cariou) and Sandy (Sally Kellerman) all live in an active adult retirement community and meet at a “bereavement club” support group for those who have had a recent loss. But the club is hardly the end for romance for these retirees, as they re-discover life, complete with new friendships and new romance. Michael Nouri, as silver-haired hunk Donald, joins the cast of characters who explore the topics of dating, love and sex in the retirement years.

The fact that the characters are all retirees may put off some younger filmgoers but the plain fact is that the film is simply good storytelling and entertainment, no matter what your age. The real-life basis gives the stories a roundedness and believability that Hollywood films often lack, especially in dealing with retirees. The people in this film are all generally healthy and active, not the doddering stereotypes that might otherwise dominate a movie about retirees.

The playful, candy-colored visual tone of the film is a delight and the stories are buoyed by a nice mostly Fifties soundtrack. A light, entertaining touch predominates but where it deals with more serious topics, it avoids any false notes or fake sentiment.

Another delight of the film is the fine cast, who all turn in polished performances. These older stars look good, some of them very good, while still looking their age. They are appealing and attractive but do not look like they are far too young to be retired, as age-phobic Hollywood usually does. The film deals with these issues head-on, especially for women. Instead, “Boynton Beach Club” finds the humor in the truth. New widowers suddenly find themselves deluged with frozen casseroles from a bevy of hopeful widows, as the women this age far outnumber the men. The film also grappled with the different attitudes towards widows and divorcees, as well as issues of first dates among people who have not dated since they were teenagers. There is a whole “second adolescence” theme that runs through the characters adventures, as they try out online dating, meeting at clubs and classes, fudging the truth and even the big dance. The film is funny but the whole approach is so realistic and down to earth, that it is just refreshing.

The difference that makes “Boynton Beach Club” stand above the average Hollywood movies about retirees is that the stories in the film were inspired by real life stories that Susan Seidelman’s mother Florence told her about after she retired to Florida. Although she is not a widow, Florence Seidelman heard these stories from her friends who joined “bereavement clubs” after the lost of a spouse, and found a whole new social life. This film had originally been titled “Boynton Beach Bereavement Club” but the title made the film sound sadder and heavier than it actually is. There is some drama and sadness in the film but the overall tone is more hopeful and comic.

“Boynton Beach Club” was the closing night feature of the recent Jewish Film Festival, where director Susan Seidelman attended for a little introduction to her entertaining, funny film. The film is playing for a longer run at the Plaza Frontenac Cinema on Friday, July 28. Who knew retirement could be such fun?