Meh, as the young folk say. This could have been great. I’d argue the world needed it to be great, but…meh. Old age insights? We get cheques.
Wild Oats is the story of Shirley MacLaine as sweet, disappointed, well-liked ex teacher Eva after the death of her husband, her friendship with Jessica Lange‘s sad Maddie, and the mistaken life assurance cheque that promised $50,000 but delivers $5,000,000.
See? A modern film, with those stars, and that guaranteed-comedy plot?! And they even head off to the sun to spend the cash, so, you know, blue skies and beautiful views! And when they get there, up pops Billy Connolly to flirt with La MacLaine with no degree of subtlety. More fun!
But somehow – for the all the skill on show – the plot doesn’t support the talent. After two thirds of the film being about the tension of them progressively stealing money with every cocktail, it goes weird and comedy-foreign-gangstery. The piece doesn’t hang together and – sorry – just isn’t very good. It didn’t drive old Jack into a rage, it whispered him to sleep.
MacLaine gives a warm, accessible performance as Eva. I liked her far more than as the demanding old bossy boots of The Last Word (2017)! And she is nicely, if weirdly, matched by Jessica Lange as the ill, but successfully cougarish Maddie. The pair are the heart of the film, working well with Connolly as the obvious con-man (although I wanted to hug the man as his real-life illness is beginning to show), but I didn’t want the final third of silly plotting to happen at all.
Oddly, and in a pleasantly warm-funny-hangdog performance, Howard Hesseman as Vespucci brings charm and unavoidable plot clichés to his insurance agent. For this misery-guts, eager for retirement, hunts down Eva, bringing along Demi Moore as her perma-tanned daughter. She charms the heart of every old man at one point, nuzzling into the so-lucky-he-got-paid-as-well Hesseman, but this distraction is a fond memory ten minutes later.
Wild Oats is pleasant enough, and the performances certainly make it appealing, but old Jack found its appeal came and went half an hour before the end. At which point there appeared a wine baron, awkwardly directed group comedy scenes, a mildly irritating comedy coincidence, and some shouty caricatures…so…no thank you.
It was a pain to make as well, apparently.