Five aging baby boomers band together to find an alternative to late-life problems in the likable, efficient French comedy-drama “And if We All Lived Together?” This sophomore feature for Stephane Robelin (“Real Movie”) assembles a tony cast of name Francophone thesps (including Claude Rich and Geraldine Chaplin) together with Jane Fonda — showing off her fluency in French for the first time in nearly 40 years — to forge a timely, only-a-little-sentimental portrait of senior citizens defying the dying of the light. If marketed right, pic could strike a resonant chord, especially with mature auds, both domestically and offshore.
Retired philosophy professor Jeanne (Fonda) and her spouse, Albert (Pierre Richard), have been best friends for decades with shrink Annie (Chaplin) and her hubby, political activist Jean (Guy Bedos), as well as senior single Claude (Rich), a photographer. With their children all grown up and their careers in twilight, the five live comfortably in well-appointed homes in a nice suburb of Paris. But they’re all getting older: Jeanne has a serious medical problem she refuses to tell the others about, Albert is experiencing the beginnings of dementia, and the always sexually voracious Claude now needs Viagra to keep up with the prostitutes he likes to visit. One night, Jean half-jokingly suggests they all move in together, so they can look out for each other.
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When a fall severely impairs Claude’s mobility, his son Bernard (Bernard Malaka) strong-arms him into moving into an assisted-living facility, but Claude’s friends bust him out and bring him to live at Annie and Jean’s, along with Jeanne and the increasingly forgetful Albert. Jeanne hires German anthropology student Dirk (Daniel Bruehl) to walk their dog for them and ends up befriending him, giving him advice on his lovelife and field of study. Eventually, Dirk moves in with the others in order to help out and study their interaction for his thesis on the elderly. Old love letters discovered in a trunk sow discord among the friends, ensuring drama-furthering conflict, while Albert’s mental health and Jeanne’s physical health deteriorate.
The script by helmer Robelin errs somewhat on the side of predictability, but is nevertheless tightly written and takes robust pleasure in foregrounding everyone’s capacity for passion and foolishness at any age. Evincing perhaps the desire to exploit Fonda’s involvement as much as possible, there are perhaps a few too many scenes of her and Bruehl chatting with supposedly shocking frankness about sex while dog-walking, at the expense of exploring the rest of the characters.
However, the other thesps, especially Rich and Chaplin (the latter looking every bit as sexy as Fonda for her age, but with a more naturally creased face), rep vivid enough presences to compensate for their less generous screen time. Never disguising her American accent (her character is meant to be a Yank) but rattling away in French with a proficiency that impresses, Fonda turns in solid work here as a former radical turned respectable with the patina of age, a type she clearly knows something about.
The dialogue makes the characters sound convincing as lefties who came of age in the 1960s (they debate whether their home should be run along collectivist or libertarian lines), but doesn’t strain to prove their intellectual credentials on the same scale as, say, the talk in Denys Arcand’s somewhat similarly themed “The Barbarian Invasions.” Helming has an unfussy, ribald briskness that’s characteristic of middlebrow-in-a-good-way Gallic films. Ellipses in the storytelling work effectively to change the emotional weather from comic to melancholy, especially in the last reel, as well as presumably serving to save production coin.
HD lensing by Dominique Colin manages to balance the clarity and spontaneity of digital cinematography with light flattering enough to make the leads, especially the femmes, look their best. Though no other department stands out, all tech work is executed with pro polish.