Aging, Gracefully: Quel Plaisir! All Together is ‘a Sweet, Thoughtful and Spirited Examination of How to Grow Old’

It’s been awhile since Godard’s Tout va Bien, but Fonda’s French—and looks—remain intact

tf12 alltogether itunes 1667x2500 e1350429597877 Aging, Gracefully: Quel Plaisir! <em>All Together</em> is a Sweet, Thoughtful and Spirited Examination of How to Grow Old

Bedos, Richard, Fonda, Rich and Chaplin in All Together.

Jane Fonda’s first French-speaking film in 40 years finds her leading a joyous ensemble of septuagenarians in a sweet, thoughtful and spirited examination of how to grow old with dignity and pride in a regrettable era when senior citizens have been reduced to the status of a political agenda. At 74, Ms. Fonda is a testament to the benefits of exercise, the stimulation of cognitive effort, up-to-the-minute cosmetics, a healthy lifestyle—and the money to afford them all. She is glorious at any age, in any language, and is a class act on the screen who is always welcome. 

In All Together, sensitively directed by Stéphane Robelin from his own intelligent screenplay, five close friends for 40 years who begin to sense, feel and smell their own mortality decide to bypass the cruel third act that awaits them, circumventing the inevitable horrors of the retirement home by moving in together. Jeanne (Fonda), born in America but living in France for most of her life, looks young enough to be the others’ granddaughter, but she’s an academic dying of an unspecified terminal disease who keeps her condition secret and confides in no one. Her husband, Albert (Pierre Richard), is a celebrated photographer in the early stages of Alzheimer’s who is losing his touch, balance and memory. Their friends Annie and Jean (Geraldine Chaplin and Guy Bedos) fight constantly, their outbursts fueled by the futility and frustration of Jean’s eroding virility as a left-wing political activist. He still finds plenty of passionate causes to protest, but nobody pays much attention to the anger and drive of an old man; even the police refuse to arrest him for disturbing the peace. The odd man out in their group is Claude (Claude Rich), a randy bachelor who still clings to his dwindling reputation as a lady-killer. His libido is still active, but his heart not on par with his sex drive. Climbing the stairs to visit a prostitute, he suffers a stroke. Gathering around his bed in the hospital while his grown son demands that he move to a pensioners’ home, the friends make a life-altering decision to move into Annie and Jean’s spacious home. If anything worse happens, Jeanne rationalizes, “we could all help each other cope.” In France, the movie is called And If We All Lived Together, which is probably a better title. From the day they all transport their books, music, creature comforts and boxes of belongings to the new house, the trajectoryfollows them through the experiences of aging—both funny and touching—with affection and compassion. Clearly they need each other to keep going. And the thread that links them is Jeanne’s handsome dog walker Dirk (Daniel Bruhl, who played the German war hero in Quentin Tarantino’s unforgettable Inglourious Basterds), an ethnology student who is studying them, culturally and domestically, for a Ph.D. dissertation he’s writing on senior citizens. Nothing of portentous profundity happens to address the Big Issues—Annie turns the garden into a swimming pool for her grandchildren, Albert’s dementia grows, and Claude bribes Dirk to fill a prescription for Viagra—but the inevitably sad ending is leavened by a sense of community that continues even after death. The acting is solid, and the maturity of vision mixed with humor should appeal to the same audience that turned The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel into such an unexpected runaway hit. Jane Fonda may be the marquee value, but she does not act like a star. Admirably, she fits into the veteran ensemble like the seasoned pro she is, and in All Together, she’s only one of the many important and diverse pieces of a jigsaw devoted to Ruth Gordon’s premise that age is only something they stamp in your passport.

rreed@observer.com

ALL TOGETHER

Running Time 96 minutes

Written and Directed by Stéphane Robelin

Starring Guy Bedos, Daniel Brühl and Geraldine Chaplin

3/4