(director: Randa Haines; screenwriter: Steve Conrad; cinematographer: Lajos Koltai; editor: Paul Hirsch; music: Michael Convertino ; cast: Robert Duvall (Walt), Richard Harris (Frank), Shirley MacLaine (Helen), Sandra Bullock (Elaine), Piper Laurie (Georgia); Runtime: 123; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Todd Black/Joe Wizan; Warner Home Video; 1993)

Mostly dull but likable senior citizen melodrama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Randa Haines (“Children of a Lesser God”/”Dance With Me”/”The Doctor”) helms this mostly dull but likable senior citizen melodrama. It’s poignantly but not wisely written by the inexperienced with aging problems 23-year-old Steve Conrad. The pic tells about the intimate friendship between two old and eccentric men, who in the end become better people because of their ticklish needy relationship.

In Sweetwater, a dumpy Florida resort town, reside the re-located Chicago retired resident Walt (Robert Duvall) and newcomer sea dog Frank (Richard Harris). They are two lonely elderly men, in an Odd Couple scenario. Walt is the Felix, who is a repressed bachelor, a Cuban barber and a fussy type; while Frank is the Oscar, who is an outgoing alcoholic retired sea captain. The four-times divorced Frank is now living alone in a bleak apartment building, and the recently grounded Frank is estranged from his son and having difficulty adjusting to his new uptight situation. Frank’s good time memories of his wild past are no comfort now. The characters though vastly different, having little in common, will predictably bond by the third act, after intruding on one another through the opening acts.

The slim tale is an actor’s film, as both men wonderfully play off each other and allow the film to become semi-profound and tolerable. The supporting cast is fine, with only Shirley MacLaine’s shrill performance as Frank’s romantic interest landlady. Sandra Bullock is fine as the friendly waitress Frank flirts with. Piper Laurie is also fine as Frank’s prim lady friend.

The title is derived from Frank reading Hemingway in the local bookstore and the dubious claim he wrestled the author in the Caribbean in 1938.

Wrestling Ernest Hemingway Poster

REVIEWED ON 12/25/2015 GRADE: C+