Monday, May 11, 2009

Is Anyone There?

No, I don't care all that much if there is anyone there or not--that's the title of a movie I saw this weekend. It's set in a home for the elderly, and initially portrays the strained circumstances of the family that is trying to run this place, including a very malcontented little boy named Eddie. The old people die around him from time to time and his response to this is the scientific approach--he'd like to find out what happens to them next, and he uses their death in his esoteric experiments.

Into this slightly depressing scenario careens the Amazing Clarence, a.k.a Michael Caine, almost mowing down Eddie before they ever meet. Clarence has come to the end of his days and is a very reluctant new addition to the old age home, for which, as he well knows,there is really only one exit.

Although there are some aspects of the movie which seem pretty standard and predictable, there is a lot that breaks out of the mold. But the main thing about this movie is Michael Caine as our aging, remorseful, caged magician. The portrayal he gives of the end of life is so profound that there is really no possibility of a happy ending. Yet, because we feel we have been told the truth about something, we walk out of the movie feeling readied in our spirits for the reality that lies at the end of all lives.

I won't give too much more away about the story, though I would say that even the more predictable elements contribute to the subject in a meaningful way. And I will add that if you go to this movie only for the moment where the Amazing Alexander stands in front of a mirror hopefully, skeptically, mournfully addressing the spirit of his dead wife, you will feel it was worth the price of the ticket.

Here's the story my friend told me about waiting for me after the movie ended. She was sitting outside on a bench surrounded by other viewers of the film. Everyone was silent, stunned mainly. One couple was addressed by a cheery new couple, their friends, apparently, with a chipper "Oh, what movie did you see--Adventureland?"

"No," the man of the couple said, "I just saw Michael Caine," he said, and started crying.

I could say more, but really, just go see this little movie with a big part for a great actor. It's likely to be lost in the wake of larger things, but it's well worth the price of the ticket.

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