Brain-dead Barry showed signs of stirring last week so he was wheeled into the TV room. He’s not particularly ill, mind, just thick as shit from fifty years of watching all the soaps. We agreed he needed something soft, unchallenging, which dodges all the potential drama of its set-up and, well, just sits there like film jelly. Ruth & Alex ahoy.
Barry’s gimlet eye fixed on the screen as soon as it started, Morgan Freeman (Alex) and his dog struggling to get 5 Flights Up (as the Americans know the film). Poor dog. Old couple Alex and Diane Keaton (Ruth) ooh and coo over the animal before fighting across town to the single most hi-tech veterinary practice you will ever see. Really – I’m pretty sure there were cyborgs operating on horses in the background. The vet keeps the dog, and thereby the emotional backbone of the entire film, in a cage. Really.
Keaton and Freeman – lovely of chemistry, deep of acty skills and pottering around each other with a singular lack of passion – return to their flat and resolve to flog it. They need somewhere else, not the countryside cos, you know, that way lies madness, but possibly somewhere with a lift. So they look. Cynthia Nixon is Lily their comedy-themed, highly-strung estate agent who gets them a bunch of strangers to wander their apartment. Freeman is an artist and the only one he bonds with is a kid with a better sense of perspective than all the grown-ups. That’s Sterling Jerins as Zoë who a glance at imdb shows to be the kid-you-didn’t-notice in World War Z, No Escape, And So It Goes (2014). Anyhow, she’s got a hint of attitude more forthright than the soggy old folk and matches Lily for making Ruth and Alex look…normal.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are some pleasantly awkward flashbacks to when Ruth and Alex got together…including a painting of Ruth’s naked ladyness. The inter-racial issues of forty years ago are barely addressed. In fact, I’m not sure they get a mention at all. Barry let out a terrific fart with nary a blink of his one yellow eye, so it could have happened.
Claire van der Bloom and Korey Jackson are acceptably flirty and sweet as the younger versions – and you can sort of see the beginnings of a relationship that froze at the point of deep affection. In neither time is there any real risk – apart from decrepitude and death (and the dog metaphor). A gentle moment has them deal with the no-kids-possible thing, but, the only real drama is the possibility of losing the great view from their flat.
And out Lily bustles them into other flats, only to be unhappy with something or other. Nixon is great fun, even negotiating through testingly American house-buying rules. But the story needed life not process.
And the dog…well. I wouldn’t want to spoiler to you on the fate of the family pet. Let’s just say there was a flicker of life in Barry’s eye, and not just because I threw open the French windows with quite some force, staggering into the gardens and calling him a poison-arsed bastard. All part of the therapy.
And that’s it for Ruth & Alex. They climb their five flights, feel a bit rough about life whilst being adorable, happy, still in love and faintly glamorous. And…nope, nothing else.