CRUMBLIES… 2 crumblies

There’s a tragi-comic air that lingers over the old women in the home. Some have given in to age and are sweet old grandmas: all grey hair, piss and lavender. Others froze in their style sometime in the 1960s – and they weren’t young then – such that hair and wigs remain freakishly dark, blusher goes on like wrinkles are no obstacle, and the eye-liner…yikes. The skin isn’t firm enough, so it seeps around their eyes into every crag, sag and facial gusset. And some days…when the gin has flowed and the nights are cold…these old women come at you out of the dark, swirling into your macular degeneration with second class breath and third class flirtiness. They are so sad and empty, and old Jack here wants to help them feel brilliant, but, you know, got to be careful of #metoo moments these days and these half-blind, trembling, nonagenarian cougars are terrifying.

Which brings me to The Time of their Lives, the strangely garish and sluggish Shirley Valentine riff starring Joan Collins (as a fading movie star, desperate for work and the freedom to escape her nursing home and beg for said work at a far-away funeral and….see paragraph 1) and Pauline Collins (as a tragic mother, still grieving for her little boy and paying for it through an angry husband and wretched life). It is a sweetly comic tale of these women, their lives ostensibly locked in until death, grabbing the moment to run through France towards and away from their congealed mistakes. Crumbly Film Template 3, ahoy. Again.

Joan Collins as Helen Shelly provides the drive. Pauline Collins as Priscilla provides the early pathos. They are a nice mix until things get spiky and petty and start to drag. This is especially true when Franco Nero as Alberto pitches up to help them fail the Bechdel Test for wayyyyyyyyyy too many pat scenes.

And once off kilter, the film loses the TV room. Maud and Agnes took deep offence when Joan’s story took over the bittersweet stuff and plunged into bathos. She undoes her frozen old 1960s image into a sink at one point and we had to restrain Agnes from damaging the new widescreen. Young Steve donated it so I’m a bit protective. Joan was doling out the best acting I’ve ever seen her do, but it fell on grumpy hearts: possibly because of the singing involved. The room refused to sympathise with the regretful screen mothers…

So…two old women go to France, snark their way through a road trip and an old, romantic Italian, and reconvene as friends after an awkward funeral, sour wake and recognition that they must change their lives before the end. Hmmm.

There are surprises. Okay, one, and as that’s Joely Richardson I’m more than fine with it. Okay, two, if you include a startled Frenchman on the stairs. I won’t spoilt the moment for you. There are also orange roofs and blue skies that feel like an iPhone filter, making the film a good choice to slap away January’s dead, grey hand. But… well…

Old Jack was charmed for the first hour. And kind of cared about the Collinses in the last half hour. But…oh…the middle drags. And there are no life lessons here given the women’s motherly tragedies are both made to feel unusual.

So, watch it for the actors and the early charm. Pop yourself onto the commode in the middle section. Enjoy the potential resonance of the ending. And enjoy the Collinses for they are nothing if not safe, warm, familiar friends.