Tuesday 11 April 2017

Film: 'The Time of Their Lives'

Not quite as displeasing as I'd been dreading, this is a bit of a strange one. It's another of those films which have become more frequent in recent years, one that seems to be directed at an audience of more 'senior' age.
It's being marketed as a bit of a rompish comedy but it's a tad more subtle than that. In fact the 'funny' moments are, at most, only slightly amusing. But I did detect a not unattractive poignancy in it too.

Joan Collins (whom I've not seen in a substantial role on screen since Steven Berkoff's excellent 'Decadence' of 1992) is a faded and recently widowed Hollywood star. Now with her fame and wealth behind her, she's resident in an old people's home somewhere in the south of England. 
On a coach trip to the seaside she meets up with Pauline Collins (no relation), a woman trapped in an unhappy marriage (to that decades-old stalwart of stage and screen, Ronald Pickup), where she is haunted by the death of a son who drowned in infancy. The two Collins abscond from the coach and Collins J. wiles her way to get a free pass for both of them on a ferry to northern France where her recently deceased ex-lover is due to be buried, she being determined to attend the funeral. While Collins J. trades on her former glamour (though hardly anyone remembers even her name) the unglamorous Collins P. goes reluctantly along with her - amid much bickering. 
Then they bump into Franco Nero, that 'phwarr' star of scores of films and for whom I at one time had the hots. (Still looking good, facially, now in his mid-70s, though his body, which we see totally unclad a couple of times, has now gone to flab, pot-bellied and lard-arsed). The Nero character, who lights up Joan C's eyes when she finds out  that he's wealthy, is more interested in Collins P. much to the chagrin of her acting namesake who was hoping he'd appreciate a scintillating, one-time film star more than her near-dowdy, down-at-heels companion.
Btw: Joan Collins is not afraid to be seen without her make-up, (believed now to be approaching 84), most especially in the film's conclusion which gets unfortunately, though predictably, heavily laden with sentiment

There were interesting cross-connections in this film I noticed which others may not. The film also features Joely Richardson, daughter of Vanessa Redgrave and late (gay) director, Tony Richardson. Franco Nero starred in 'Camelot' (1966) on the set of which he met Vanessa R. and they had an affair, marrying some years later. However, in this film, Nero and Joely Richardson don't share any scenes together.
Then there's a scene in a cabaret-restaurant where Joan Collins takes the microphone to warble out the song 'Who Can I Turn To?' written by her one-time husband, Anthony Newley, from his and Leslie Bricusse's musical, 'The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd'. The choice of song must, surely, have been hers.
There may have been further links which I missed, but it made the whole enterprise more interesting to me than it otherwise might have been.

This appears to be director Roger Goldby's only second feature film, most of his work to date having been for TV. He does okay with this. I thought there might have been a few jarringly embarrassing episodes as much of the humour, such as there is any, has the physical foibles of aged people as its easy target. But I hardly ever cringed, even if I did get close to it a couple of times.

A pleasant enough film, but really only one to give a very modest lift to a couple of hours.................5.   


  1. Don't know if this will hit American theaters - probably not. Maybe in a short time it will hit the streaming services.

    Want to see this just to take a stroll down memory lane. Would like to see Pauline Collins again. Expected big things from her after "Shirley Valentine". Franco Nero? Yes at any age.

    1. It's a very 'British' type of film, Paul, if there is such a thing. By that I mean it's got an insular POV and sense of humour (though that itself might be debatable) which one might suspect won't travel easily. But we never expected Monty Python to be popular beyond these shores and look what happened. And then take Benny Hill - and keep him!

      I wasn't so keen on the film of 'Shirley Valentine', but I'd been spoilt by already having seen it on the stage in its original monologue version which I thought far superior (I saw it with Hannah Gordon as the sole player). When it was opened up for screen treatment, as I suppose it had to be, it became much more 'ordinary' than the tour-de-force of the live version, even though I've never been a particular fan of writer Willy Russell. (That 'Blood Brothers'! - Crikey, take it away, and far!). But it was good to see Pauline Collins in a meaty role once more, and here standing up to her bigger-named co-star.

      It actually wasn't 'Camelot' that got me all swoony about Mr Nero, it was his appearance in D.H.lawrence's 'The Virgin and the Gypsy' (badly overlooked) that got me hooked. I've always looked out for his films ever since then, and there have been so very many of them, mostly in non-English language films. Did you manage to see him in Fassbinder's final one, 'Querelle'? He was still a devilishly handsome middle-aged hottie even then.

  2. I really should check for spelling before hitting Publish!

    Anyway .... This sounds interesting, only if it's to see Joan again on screen.
    And gosh, did I ever have a crush on Nero in Camelot! He steamed up the screen.

    1. Yes, Joan Collins' appearances in a major cinema role are as rare as hens' teeth, Bob - and here she really plays it with some relish.

      I never suspected there were many more male Franco Nero fans around than myself, and now I found that there's also you and Paul, above. I wonder how many more closet Nero fans there are around. Come out! - and, btw, does he know? :-)