This week my local arthouse cinema continues a few showings of Everything Everywhere All at Once, continues the run The Northman and debuts The Duke. If you’re like me you have no idea what that last movie is about. But, if you’re still like me, knowing it stars Helen Mirren means you immediately know what that movie is like. Or think you do.
Near as I can tell there’s not a consensus name for this genre – I once read a review that described Dame Judi Dench as something like “the patron saint of silver-haired cinema” and that encapsulates it as well as anything – but its members are easily recognizable. The movies star aging, generally British actors with unimpeachable credentials. At least 80% have Judi Dench or Helen Mirren. The stories involve the age of the cast but doesn’t hold it as a limiting factor. Based on my admittedly statistically insignificant sample size, the movies conjure a sleepy afternoon at the big screen, a competent experience marred only partially by the screen’s obstruction by red wide-brimmed hats.
The box office phenomenon of aging movie-goers and their insatiable appetite for middle-of-the-road fare has been documented for around ten years now, generally blooming with its landmark film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. There are historical dramas like Red Joan and intrigue like The Good Liar. American versions like The Old Man and the Gun and travelogues like The Leisure Seeker. The spate of film about old men taking revenge are arguably a subgenre, where Liam Neeson takes the patron saint role (though Dench appeared in the action film RED aka Retired and Extremely Dangerous, the Queen is never far away).
These movies don’t describe the preferences of a certain generation so much as they represent a smart service of a neglected market, cinephiles who remember trips to movies that didn’t need to puff themselves up as events or offer anything beyond a good couple hours of story. Raise a modest budget, hire known professionals, shoot somewhere fun, everybody gets paid.
But suppose you’re of an age where nostalgia fare includes the blockbuster? Where going to the movies created a different set of expectations? Maybe the Silver-haired Cinema of the future will be more like Logan, aging characters and not skimming on the setpieces. Or maybe it’ll mark a return to quieter preferences, as bodies lose their eight-pack abs and we get to consider the interiority of Chris Evens. Or perhaps the technology will get ironed out and actors will stop aging entirely.
Your turn, Solutors – what is your experience of movies pitched at the AARP population (especially Solutors in or verging on that population)? What will these movies look like in another generation or two? Can we take a collective couple minutes to picture a 70-year-old Andrew Garfield learning to love again by the Mediterranean?