Senior viewings are a fun little diversion from usual screenings. I do get some odd looks and questioned “You know this screening is for Seniors?” whenever I go to the cinema intent on seeing the film, but going to certain screenings has allowed me to see some great films. For example, 2014’s The Two Faces of January was, in my opinion one of the most underrated films of the year. But now for the review of the new release aimed at seniors, Ruth And Alex.
Ruth And Alex (Renamed 5 Flights Up in other countries) stars Diane Keaton, Morgan Freeman and Cynthia Nixon and the director is Richard Loncraine. Over one hectic weekend, married couple Ruth (Keaton) and Alex (Freeman) look into trying to sell their now-trendy Brooklyn apartment as they downsize their lives after retirement.
When I first went into Ruth And Alex I thought it was going to come down to a live action version of the first ten minutes from Up. The film does flit between the past and the present with the same rose tinted fondness that that famous ten-minute montage did, and this is where the film excels. It’s nice to see two people falling in love, even if it doesn’t raise any of the serious questions about the prejudice that would have occured at the time over a mixed race couple, nigh one line of dialogue. The only problem with these scenes is that they are too few and far between, with only around four, each lasting under a minute in the whole film. I wanted to see more of these scenes, to see the blossoming relationship that would turn into a long marriage between the two older actors.
Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton are both on form, doing roles they could both do in their sleep. Freeman’s lines are accentuated by his dry humour/sarcastic delivery, while Keaton usually just seems to roll her eyes at his interjections, with a look of “You loveable rogue” on her face. Morgan Freeman as well does some opening and closing voiceover work, using that almost legendary voice to draw the audience in. In relation to the time jumping narrative, praise must also be given to Claire Van De Boom and Korey Jackson who play the young Ruth and Alex respectively, even if Van De Boom sometimes goes a bit over the top with her acting.
After seeing Ruth And Alex I can see why it was tapped for a senior release. Freeman’s opening monologue is laced with dry wit and disdain at Brooklyn becoming a haven for “Hipsters…A Wholefoods and…An Apple Store.” It’s full of scenes of children pushing past our older actors without much care and has some scumbag buyers trying to get Ruth and Alex’s apartment for less than it’s worth. It’s a film that rolls it’s eyes at the audience while saying, “Young people, Imma right?”
All Ruth and Alex comes down to is ninety minutes of apartment hunting through the boroughs of New York, but the writers knew that wouldn’t fill an entire film so there are two subplots, both coming out of nowhere and feeling totally incongruous. One involves a possible terrorist plot to blow up Brooklyn Bridge that is always jarring the sense of tone from romcom to…I don’t know, a thriller? The film almost touches on a few ideas later in the film, (through another soliloquy by Freeman, although nowhere near as good as his Shawshank days) about the demonization of minorities and trial by media, but again, these ideas aren’t for the type of film Ruth And Alex is.
The other is a small story about the couples old pet dog Dorothy, which is stumbled upon pretty early in the film and never really goes anywhere apart from to the vets and back. These odd diversions are also told in the various flashback sequences, with certain character details and family relationships of Ruth and Alex being subtly explored, each giving our lead characters shade but no depth.
In summary, Ruth And Alex is a mixed bag. While the small sections of the falling in love story are nice to see, the dual storylines of house-hunting and bizarre subplots feel out of place. It really should have been a story about the characters, rather than their retirement plans.
Score: 3/10 It could have, and should been so much better