Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The Long Way Home
I watched a good movie recently on DVD from Netflix. It was a 1998 made for TV movie and it had one of my favorite actors, Jack Lemmon, who I miss seeing since he passed away in June 2001.
As the movie opens we see an Estate sale in progress. Tom Garrin (Jack Lemmon) looks on with melancholy while his home and his belongings are sold. He keeps just a little wood plane as a souvenir.
A widower for three years, he has two daughters, two sons, seven grandchildren. "They clipped my wings" he says when asked about living with his son. He is not sent to a home for the aged as one son wants but moves in with his other son and daughter-in-law instead.
His daughter-in-law dutifully administers his medicine to him and remains always polite despite the fact that she would have preferred to have her house to herself after her children left. Toms habit of speaking to himself appears strange to her.When he isn't at home on time she always suspects the worst. Toms reaction to her and his sons patronizing attitude is equally childish: Let them worry!
One day he's late again. He watched a circus, fell asleep and stumbled over a log. He tries to make up lame excuses ("They kidnapped me"). He is nearly run over by a car and engages in a conversation with the young driver Leanne (Sarah Paulson). When some rednecks in a saloon try to hit on her he comes to her help. In the following chase, her car is smashed up. She plans to hitch hike to Carmel, California. Tom, who has just cashed his pension-check impulsively decides to join her and visit an old girl-friend in Monterey. His efforts to inform his family are half-hearted, to say the least, and while his son is so worried that he alarms the police and tries to trace his father via radio, he enjoys his trip.
In the company of this merry, optimistic and energetic young woman Tom realizes that his own approach to life is perhaps the wrong one. "What are you doing?" she asks him. "I used to be a cabinet-maker." he answers. "No. I mean: what are you doing NOW?" "Nothing." Why did he retire, she wonders.
Arriving in California , Tom is confronted with people whose way of looking at life is the opposite of his own. Leanne's father, a man not much older than his own son, is confined to a wheelchair, slowly dying - and still working. The idea of retiring never crossed his mind. He wants to lead a useful life to the last. Tom calls on his old sweetheart, Veronica (Betty Garrett, Lemmon's partner in "My sister Eileen").
"The Long Way Home" is a superior TV-film, a little bit patronizing, but redeemed by two outstanding performances. The lesson in this movie for senior citizens is pretty much this: Don't be one of those living-dead who sleep their life away before a television-set. Go out and live!