Movie Review: The Golden Boys (Chatham)
The Charlotte Observer
David Carradine, Bruce Dern and Rip Torn are collectively about a decade younger than the United States of America. So the target audience for the coyly named “The Golden Boys” is probably not going to choose between this and “17 Again.” That's too bad, because you don't have to be a geezer to grin at these goings-on.
Writer-director Daniel Adams, who last made a feature in 1996, has adapted Joseph Lincoln's novel “Cap'n Eri” and filled it with whimsy. “Whimsy” may be an old-fashioned concept in these times of dropped-trousers humor, but that's what you get in this story of three sea captains in their 70s who all have designs on a younger woman.
The trio, who live together in a Massachusetts town called Chatham, match coins to see who should advertise for a wife. They plan for her to save them from their disastrous cooking and messy housekeeping; she's supposed to marry one and let the other two stay on as boarders. Jerry (Torn) loses and reluctantly agrees to woo a widow from Nantucket, Martha Snow (Mariel Hemingway). But when Perez (Dern) and Zeb (Carradine) get to know this forthright, sensible and attractive woman, they develop other ideas.
What saves this quadrangle from creepiness is the era in which it's set. In 1905, a widow with few other prospects might well respond via snail-mail to a settled, respectable and perhaps prosperous old seafarer. Carradine and Dern have just enough virility and joie de vivre that you can imagine a woman of about 50 marrying one of them, especially as September-December romances were far more common a century ago.
Adams spins off two subplots, one more successful than the other. Charles Durning, looking frail but burning with intensity at 83, plays a Christian activist who wants to torch a rum shop run by an unsavory entrepreneur (John Savage). Meanwhile, the old man's granddaughter (Christy Scott Cashman) falls for an engineer (Jason Alan Smith) who has just moved to town. The romance has no candlepower, but the rum-shop story plays out convincingly.
The memorable acting comes from the four oldest pros, although Hemingway alternates between moments of blandness and moments of sincere believability. (Can it really be 30 years since she played Woody Allen's way-too-young mistress in “Manhattan”? Sure enough.)
Bizarrely, the great Julie Harris (who's 83) gets separate billing in the opening credits but appears in two scenes without uttering a line. That's like buying a classic Rolls-Royce and putting it on blocks in your back yard.