Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Wild Oats (2016)

Film: Wild Oats (2016)
Stars: Shirley MacLaine, Jessica Lange, Billy Connolly, Howard Hesseman, Demi Moore
Director: Andy Tennant
Oscar History: No nominations (not even sure if it's eligible with the concurrent Lifetime airing)
Snap Judgment Ranking: 3/5 stars

I recently caught Wild Oats on Lifetime (I believe it's also been playing in theaters, but I couldn't find it nearby and, well, I already paid for the cable).  The film struck me in a way because I kept thinking-"if the leads had British accents, this would be a huge arthouse hit."  It's true that for some reason American audiences respond to their older actors when they have names like Dench, Mirren, and Dame Maggie, but aging American actresses are something you only find on television.  This is, alas, a huge headache as MacLaine and Lange prove here, they can still elevate rather mundane material with the lightest of touches.

(Spoilers Ahead) The film itself is really standard fare as far as these things go.  You have Eva (MacLaine), a recently-widowed woman who is trying to figure out what she should do with her life after her husband's death, particularly financially, while Maddie (Lange), her best friend, has recently found out her husband is leaving her for his secretary.  Eva one day receives a check for $5 million for a life insurance policy worth only $50,000, and at Maddie's insistence, she cashes it and runs away with her pal to the Canary Islands, where both of them find love, Eva with a forgetful aging playboy (Connolly) and Maddie with a sexy younger man (Jay Hayden).

All-in-all it's a pretty opaque script-if there's any scenes you didn't see coming, you don't go to a lot of movies.  Even the midway twist, where Connolly's playboy turns out to be a conman, is pretty easy to spot as there had to be some sort of antagonist outside of the kindly, bumbling insurance man trying to get back the money (played by Howard Hesseman).  It sort of points out the obvious with the British films of this nature-they're almost entirely dependent on a love of the cast of the film, as the movie itself isn't breaking up any great quandaries about old age (this isn't Amour or The Whisperers); it's simply showing the comedic aspects of being old, but not ready to be pronounced dead.

Luckily for me, I quite like this cast, and was struck by how much fun this was to watch, even with the simplest of plots.  MacLaine, as we highlighted recently, is one of my favorite actresses, and she doesn't disappoint here-she has terrific timing with Lange, and in her limited role as her daughter, Demi Moore (don't you wish they made more movies where actresses got to play off of other actresses?).  I love the way that she still can land every single joke-you'll find yourself laughing more than you might have initially suspected, particularly because of MacLaine.  Comedy isn't really Lange's forte (she's truly a great fit for more exaggerated drama), and she hardly needs a comeback in the way that MacLaine does with newer audiences, thanks to her time on American Horror Story, but she's still fun in this-I loved the way she seduces Jay Hayden, and plays the character with her heart on her string.  I gotta say it: it was a fun movie, even if it was no one's definition of a great movie.  Something warm to watch casually on a Saturday afternoon at home.

Those were my thoughts on Wild Oats-how about yours?  Do you agree that MacLaine and Lange elevated the script, or are you sitting there thinking I oversold it because I love these two actresses?  Anyone else wonder where Demi Moore goes next in her career?  Share your thoughts below!

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