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This Can’t Be Love (1994)

CRUMBLIES…2 crumblies

Old Jack first saw This Can’t Be Love with Mrs Jack just a few years into retirement. I watched it again this morning and missed the vitality of my dear wife and this old movie broad. For even in a flatly directed, clumsy and obsequious TV potboiler like this, echoes of past loves rattle through…

So, there’s Katharine Hepburn who – as mote it be –  made a late-life career out of playing Katharine Hepburn. In some films it’s more subtle than others – or she is matched with such a powerful opponent that things get diluted for those of us who’ve had enough of the hectoring, opinionated broad in slacks. Rooster Cogburn ahoy. In others…hmmmm.

Then there’s Anthony Quinn, bemusingly pantomimic, demonstrative and declarative in a way Maniacal Martin tried before Nurse Stabby-Fingers had him sectioned.

this-cant-be-love-18-38-10.pngThey play ageing movie stars. Pretend Hepburn had the life of Actual Hepburn (the slacks, the dead brother, films with Bogie and the Duke), but was so resolutely independent that she never married. Except she did! For five days! To Quinn! Who is now broke and wants friendship, romance and clearance to tell this part of the story in his autobiography.  And that’s the entire plot: they row, they make up, they pontificate about the old romance, their loves and careers. I started tinkering with the cushions and hoping for death about thirty minutes in. Even the relationship between her assistant and his grand-daughter is somehow pat and… oh yes…

This Can't Be Love 18.39.30Jason Bateman is La Hepburn’s valet, claiming to be in his mid-twenties but clearly just growing bollock hair. And therefore wildly lucky to get unexpected (by him; fuck knows, we know they’re coming…) snogs from Jamie Gertz, still locked into the 1980s US TV vibe as career woman and putative grand-daughter to Quinn. It’s like watching Fozzy Bear get slow-chased by Maleficent’s dazed daughter. Fourth wall comedy one-liners are plainly on their way, but not just yet. And Gertz has to have a massive character shift and a real emotion to give their relationship a chance, and…oh I just didn’t care. Drab formula, drably done, guys.

This Can't Be Love 18.39.56Meanwhile, the crumblies arrive at the end of the film, after a specious row about the autobiography, in a confused state of remembrance of shaggings past and awkward romance. It didn’t make old Jack retch his crumpets back up (like some of these one-last-time romances), what with being deeply strange. There’s only a seven year difference between the two actors, but decrepitude is on Hepburn good and proper (it’s her final full film outing). Quinn has his dodgy acting and glowy hair to entrance you while the two make a poor fist of passion – or even attraction, for that matter. But, you know…

You see it here at breakfast. Widows and widowers sharing their morning muffins, too old and disinterested in the physical, but yearning for cuddles and some pillow talk. Leave them to it, I say. Let Hepburn and Quinn sit on their railway platform, wrapped in their own affection, as the credits roll one last time.

If this film is on the telly, or you bump into it on the YouTube, give it a go. Nothing is brilliant. It is dated, clunky and strange. But for all the fakery and unconvincing acting, there’s a rightness about old Hepburn and old Quinn after the rows. The sweetness after the storm. If Mrs Jack were still here, I’d say it was about us.

This Can't Be Love 18.37.45

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