Ian Brown, in his book, Sixty, describes the shock of walking toward an attractive young woman on a sidewalk and realizing for the first time in his life that she’s looking right through him. To her, he is invisible.
As millennials take over almost everything, including the streets of my town (pushing prams and wearing prodigious beards), I’m reminded that we are all replaced eventually.
As my wife says with kindness in her eyes, “Everybody takes their turn, including us.”
Right. But circling the drain is nothing I want to do quite yet, nor what I wish to be force-fed in movies.
Johanna Schneller, the perennially astute Globe & Mail writer about things Hollywood (and spouse of Ian Brown, who also writes for the Globe), pointed out recently that people over 60 have largely been portrayed in the movies as shambling, laughably quaint, or in some way dying.
“This makes no sense,” she writes. “People who are now in their 60s were born in the 1950s — which means they were in their 20s in the 1970s, the acknowledged decade of libertine excess. They did a lot of drugs, had a lot of sex, saw their share of illness and death. They went to universities in record numbers, protested governments, changed laws, got woke. They came out, made families, screwed around, got divorced, got remarried. Their lives were rich with everyday drama. And though this may come as a shock to the desirable under-25 cohort, most adults are, on the inside, the same person they've been since about the age of seven. They don't suddenly become old, to themselves, because the calendar says they are.”
And, says Schneller, things might be shifting in Hollywood. A few examples:
• The Kominsky Method (Netflix) stars Michael Douglas, 74, and Alan Arkin, 84. Hipness pervades. Shamblers they are not.
• In The Old Man and the Gun, the 38-year-old director, David Lowery, gives the 82-year-old Robert Redford a dignified star turn, and provides well-articulated roles for Sissy Spacek, Tom Waits, and Danny Glover, seniors all. Lowery, writes Schneller, “shows us the mature pleasures to be found in languor.”
• Directors Paul Schrader (72), Steven Spielberg (71), and Spike Lee (61) are making movies that people of all ages want to see. Spielberg created a role for Rita Moreno, 86, in his upcoming remake of West Side Story. Lee’s BlacKkKlansman gives us a cameo glimpse of 91-year-old Harry Belafonte.
• Some of the hottest documentaries of 2018, according to Schneller, are about people over 60. They feature Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 85; designer Vivienne Westwood, 77; Bruce Springsteen, 69; and the late great Mr. Rogers, who was 74 when he died in 2003.
Schneller believes that older folks — in particular the remarkable ones being lionized this past year in film — are emerging from the pit of tired cliché “because they possess an elusive quality prized by millennials: authenticity.”
“The languor of Redford, Arkin and Fred Rogers,” she writes, “is a quiet but forceful argument for slowness, ongoing conversation, eye contact. For young people, that slowness is a luxury they don't have.
“The richness of the 60-plus experience - especially the kind of experience that makes one more expansive, less judgmental, kinder - is something we're all thirsting for.”
Movies both reflect the Zeitgeist and contribute to it. If Schneller is correct, the shift comes in the nick of time for you and me.
And if it’s true, what better time to be joining the lions in expansiveness, acceptance, kindness, and authenticity?
I have quoted liberally here, because Schneller’s article is behind a paywall: Old is the new Cool: The silver screen is finally living up to its name