Executive producers, Howard Baldwin, Richard Cohen.
Directed by Claudia Hoover. Screenplay, Brad Mirman. Camera (color), Jao Fernandes; editor, Thomas Meshelski; music, Anthony Marinelli; production designer, Ruth Ammon. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 18, 1999. Running time: 100 MIN.
Despite its old gold cast, “Gideon” stubbornly remains a schmaltzy, derivative tale about a simpleton-sage (Christopher Lambert) whose underage sojourn in a hope-gone rest home revolutionizes the residents’ lives. This determinedly heartwarming pic with a tempo suited for sleepy TV viewers should hobble its way to family auds in ancillary markets.
The residents are unhappy at Lakeview retirement home, run by a silly doc and his iron-fisted mom (Shelley Winters). Ex-chef Carrol O’Connor hates the food, ex-philosophy prof Charlton Heston has no one to talk to, ex-boxer Mike Connors can’t punch out blustering punks because of nerve damage, and Winters won’t let Shirley Jones paint blue trees in crafts class because trees are green. Then one magic day Gideon (Lambert), slightly retarded but pure of heart, moves in, and through his naive encouragement each one finds a reason for living. A missing page from his medical records furnishes a teary but uplifting ending. Lambert, who also co-produced, has undeniable charm and dignity in the title role (there’s a telling hat-tip to Peter Sellers’ Chance the gardener). Rest of cast bravely struggles through clunky dialogue with little direction from Claudia Hoover.