French director Julie Gavras was inspired to make the three-quarters-life crisis comedy Late Bloomers after observing how her father, the filmmaker Costa-Gavras, handled aging. Judging from the film’s patriarch, played by William Hurt, he was in deep denial. Hurt stars as an American living in London. He’s an architect famous for designing airports, and he reacts to turning 60 by taking up a new side project and working late into the night with his firm’s junior members. His English-Italian wife (Isabella Rossellini) heads in the other direction, accessorizing their house with large-button phones and adjustable beds as if they’re on their way to a nursing home.
It’s a pleasure to see Hurt and Rossellini work together and apart as a couple who still have a spark, in spite of their growing differences. But Gavras’ film is glib and overly cute in its ideas about coming to terms with one’s age and changing status in the world. After a moment of (half-metaphorical) memory loss leads her to get a check-up, Rossellini takes up a water-aerobics class filled, for whatever reason, exclusively with sporty young women. Hurt gets a new commission to plan a forward-thinking old-age home, leading him to bellow “I don’t want to design storage for hordes of incontinent zombies!” When he receives a prestigious career-achievement medal, the man presenting it tells Rossellini, “Your husband’s a dying breed—they just don’t make buildings like his anymore.”
Some of this on-the-noseness may be due to a language gap (the film is primarily in English, though Rossellini sometimes slips into Italian), but some of it is structural, including the reuniting of the couple and their grown trio of children by way of the death of another main character. Late Bloomers is at its best when it’s being breezy and simply taking pleasure in its lead actors, who turn in strong performances in spite of certain clunky character developments. Chalk it up to Gavras’ Euro sensibility that both halves of the central pair wind up in the arms of others for a while—it’s their time apart that’s the most fun, with Hurt drinking his first Red Bull and Rossellini hanging out with her activist friend (Joanna Lumley), who’s involved with the Gray Panthers. As a portrait of aging, Late Bloomers is a little too easy, but its cast makes it worth a look, even so.