×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Back When We Were Grownups

Beautifully written, acted and directed, Hallmark's third Anne Tyler adaptation probably won't win the under-34 demo derby, but it's a rare treat for older grownups and a triumphant showcase for busy Blythe Danner, who'll simultaneously be on display in Showtime's "Huff."

With:
Rebecca - Blythe Danner Tina - Faye Dunaway Mrs. Holmes - Nina Foch Will - Peter Fonda Poppy - Jack Palance Zeb - Peter Riegert Min Foo - Ione Skye Biddy - Stacy Edwards Nono - Betsy Brandt Patch - Blake Lindsley J.J. Barrow - Julio Oscar Mechoso Peter - Thomas Curtis

Beautifully written, acted and directed, Hallmark’s third Anne Tyler adaptation probably won’t win the under-34 demo derby, but it’s a rare treat for older grownups and a triumphant showcase for busy Blythe Danner, who’ll simultaneously be on display in Showtime’s “Huff.” Capturing Tyler’s mix of the whimsical and touching, director Ron Underwood delivers a richly detailed portrait of how one woman’s fork in the road can impact dozens of lives within her extended family.

There’s something almost thrilling about a movie that dares afford prominent roles to five characters 60 and older, including octogenarians Jack Palance and Nina Foch. Give thanks to Hallmark, which apparently feels comfortable with the idea that older folks still buy greeting cards.

Foremost, the pic focuses on Danner, the calming matriarch of a wildly diverse family she largely inherited by marrying a divorced man with three daughters before having one with him of their own.

Her husband, however, died young, so living with Rebecca (Danner) is his 99-year-old uncle, Poppy (Palance), and she has become a best friend to her brother-in-law Zeb (Peter Riegert). Yet as her kids have kids of their own, Rebecca feels a pang that leads her back to the boy she unceremoniously jilted years ago, Will, an awkward professorially type played with great finesse by Peter Fonda. (It’s a reunion of sorts, the two having co-starred in “Futureworld” almost 30 years ago.)

Tyler’s books have always reveled in the quirkiness of familial ties, and “Grownups” is no exception. All told, there’s enough story here for three movies, so credit Susanna Styron and Bridget Terry with managing to condense a staggering array of side plots and characters into a cohesive whole, even if the movie proves a little scattered initially.

Ultimately, it’s left to Rebecca to hold together her family, which nearly overwhelms the clenched Will when he first meets them. Slowly, the film pares away the layers of Rebecca’s life, from her husband’s wayward ex (Faye Dunaway, in what amounts to an over-billed cameo) to why she impulsively drops one beau for another. Those scenes unfold in gauzy flashbacks, with Danner’s niece, Hillary Danner, playing her as a young woman.

Danner turns in a wonderfully warm and natural performance, flanked by top-notch players in smaller roles, including Ione Skye and Stacy Edwards as two of her peculiarly nicknamed daughters. It’s no accident Rebecca runs a party-planning business called the Open Arms, which captures her welcoming attitude toward those around her, including her stepdaughter’s surly new stepson (Thomas Curtis).

Despite the formidable challenge posed by “Desperate Housewives,” CBS’ Sunday movie has held its own ratings-wise and, just as significantly, regained some critical stature after a rough patch. Then again, it’s no surprise the latest Hall of Fame-pedigreed production would boast such quality, possessing a creative track record that anyone short of Pixar could envy.

Back When We Were Grownups

CBS, Sun. Nov. 21, 9 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by Hallmark Hall of Fame Prods. Executive producers, Richard Welsh, Brent Shields; director, Ron Underwood; writers, Susanna Styron, Bridget Terry, based on the novel by Anne Tyler.

Crew: Camera, David M. Walsh; editor, Tina Hirsch; music, Jeff Beal; production designer, Cynthia Charette; casting, Linda Lowy, John Brace. 120 MIN.

Cast: Rebecca - Blythe Danner Tina - Faye Dunaway Mrs. Holmes - Nina Foch Will - Peter Fonda Poppy - Jack Palance Zeb - Peter Riegert Min Foo - Ione Skye Biddy - Stacy Edwards Nono - Betsy Brandt Patch - Blake Lindsley J.J. Barrow - Julio Oscar Mechoso Peter - Thomas Curtis

More TV

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Signs of Solidarity and Strain Emerge as Week 2 of WGA-Talent Agency Standoff Begins

    Hundreds of WGA members rallied solidly behind their union last week as the industry grappled with uncertainties spurred by the sudden break between writers and their talent agency representatives. But as the standoff heads into its second week, signs of strain among some WGA members are beginning to emerge. Shalom Auslander, author and creator of [...]

  • Jon Snow Arya Stark Game of

    'Game of Thrones' Final Season Vegas Odds Reveal Wild Theories

    With “Game of Thrones” hype at an all-time high, Las Vegas may be raking in as much money as the Iron Bank. HBO’s fantasy masterpiece has seized the gambling world’s attention nearly as much as the Super Bowl or Kentucky Derby. Fans spew countless theories on social media, such as which characters will be axed [...]

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    UPDATED with statements from John Singleton’s family and FX Networks John Singleton, the Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as [...]

  • Adam Lambert, of Queen, performs at

    Adam Lambert Back to 'Idol' to Mentor Finalists Through Queen's Catalog

    Adam Lambert famously launched his career on “American Idol” a decade ago performing a brilliant audition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” He wrapped that amazing eighth season performing with the band on the season finale, and years later earned his current spot as the front man touring as Queen + Adam Lambert. On April 28, Lambert comes full circle as he steps [...]

  • Lily Tomlin SAG Lifetime Acheivement Award

    TV News Roundup: Netflix's 'Laugh-In' 50th Anniversary Tribute Sets Premiere Date

    In today’s TV News roundup, Netflix sets the premiere date for its 50th anniversary special of “Laugh-In.” DATES “Laugh-In: The Stars Celebrate,” the 50th anniversary tribute to the original series by Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, will premiere on Netflix on May 14. The special, which was taped at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, pays [...]

  • Texas Tech's Norense Odiase (32) shoots

    Live+3 Ratings for Week of April 8: NCAA Championship Game Dunks on Competition

    The final of the 2019 NCAA basketball tournament, in which Virginia triumphed over a spirited Texas Tech team, unsurprisingly finished way out in front in the Live+3 ratings for the week of April 8. Although the sports broadcast’s scripted competition made some gains, its 5.4 ratings still more than doubled that of “Grey’s Anatomy” in [...]

  • Mueller Report Release Draws 11 Million

    Mueller Report Release Draws 11 Million Total Viewers Across TV News

    Coverage of the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report into whether President Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice unsurprisingly caused a ratings bump across TV news yesterday. In terms of overall viewership, around 11 million people tuned in to see Attorney General William Barr’s news conference regarding the report’s release, and the news coverage surrounding it. According [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content