Love on the other side of 60
Sidebar Article: Love Lost and Found
Anger and conviction are joined in film director Susan Seidelmans voice when she says that its about time people started acknowledging the baby boomer generation is getting older theyre experiencing a new life. Hollywood has been ignoring this for a long time.
Thats one reason why directing The Boynton Beach Club a movie in which both the actors and the characters they portray are senior citizens was so important to her, she told NJ Jewish News in an interview in a Soho cafe not far from her New York City home (she also lives part of the year in Stockton). Theyre ignoring this huge demographic that goes to the movies. When I go to the movies, Im often the only person my age in the theater, she said.
But theres another reason, too, a reason that may explain why the film has been so popular in its limited runs in Florida and elsewhere. Seidelman said she sees similarities between people, independent of age. Dating is dating, whether youre 16 or 60. I think meeting new people, kissing new people, being naked in front of a new person in a body where gravity has taken effect is interesting.
Seidelman, 53, explained that it was her mother Florence Seidelman, a senior citizen who divides her time between Boynton Beach and Ventnor who came up with the idea for Boynton Beach. When Florences best friend Marilyn died, she watched Marilyns husband deal with his new status as widower: He didnt know how to clean house, Seidelman said. Someone in Boynton Beach, his winter home, suggested he go to a bereavement group. There were lots of ladies there, few men. He was the center of attention. Women gave him their cards and casseroles. Once a shy, introverted guy, he was suddenly out of his shell. Len Carious character (see accompanying review) was inspired by this very real character. So important was he to the script that he received a writing credit for his contributions.
Although this is not a Jewish film, Seidelman said, it is based on Jewish characters and the people in this film are Jewish in their sensibilities. After all, Boynton Beach is a well-known snowbird area and 80 percent of the residents are Jewish. It is clear, however, that the writers, producers, and the director are betting on its universality to bring in audiences.
Charged with turning a kernel of an idea into a movie, Florence came back with a draft, which Seidelman and cowriter Shelly Gitlow, a Montclair resident, turned into a screenplay. Seidelman hired her mother as producer no nepotism here: I expected her to do her job, said the filmmaker. One of the older Seidelmans jobs was helping us find locations since she knew Boynton Beach. I was on the set with my mother, but I stopped thinking of her as Mom. I referred to her as Florence.
Real crowd pleaser
My mothers a pretty dynamic person. She always was. But she really came of age in her 40s. Having married at 18, she raised three children, was active in Hadassah and in her temple in Pennsylvania, but waited until she was 40 to fulfill a longtime dream by completing a degree at Philadelphia's Temple University while her daughter attended nearby Drexel University. Id come home and find mother at the dining room table studying with her 20-something college classmates, Seidelman said.
Seidelman later attended New York University film school and graduated in the 70s. There were no female directors working at the time, she said. I had no idea whether a career would pan out but I knew it was something Id like to do. She completed a series of independent films and some of my films began to win awards. She directed Desperately Seeking Susan, an early vehicle for Madonna in the 80s, gave up full-time work in movies until her son, now 16, entered school, then came back to movies and TV, directing the pilot and some of the early episodes of Sex and the City, among other ventures.
She has worked with stars like Roseanne Barr, Peter Falk, Meryl Streep, John Malkovich, and Sally Field, but casting Boynton Beach involved a set of unique problems. She wanted this to be a movie that would reflect something real and positive about growing older. She looked for characters that real people can relate to.
The fact that her two female leads are both beautiful and thin was totally unintentional. I cast blindly. She said she hadnt seen Dyan Cannon who plays Lois in several years, so didnt know what she looked like now. Lois was funny, vivacious. I wanted an actress who would be outgoing, with a secret sadness funny but glamorous.
Sally Kellerman (Sandy) is a bold actress, Seidelman said. She was who I had in mind when I wrote the lovemaking scene. She also had Joe Bologna (Harry) in mind: Id seen his work before. I needed his bravado. [Harry] fancies himself a ladies man but hes sweet.
When she looked for someone to play Marilyn, the most earthy character in this film, Seidelman found Brenda Vaccaro. I had worked with her 18 years ago in Cookie. The point of [Marilyns] journey is that shes going to be OK. She doesnt need a guy to validate this.
The process of casting, however, reminded Seidelman that Hollywood is ageist. I asked people in their 50s who turned me down because they didnt want to acknowledge they were old enough to play a mother.
Shes alternately optimistic and concerned about Boynton Beach. The film has been hot in film festivals a real crowd pleaser, although Im concerned with who will enjoy the movie and how they will know about it. We dont have millions for TV and NY Times ads. And then she brightens: Im hoping to put Boynton Beach on the map. After all, Boynton Beach is a state of mind, not a place. There are lots of Boynton Beaches.
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