CAPSULE: Abe Mandlebaum (Martin Landau) has moved with his wife to a senior living center. He becomes friends with another resident, Phil. The two compete to win the affections of a nurse to whom they are attracted and another nurse long ago orphaned who has unfinished business with the past. The script intertwines two plots, one a moving drama on aging and one a sort of geriatric sex comedy. The film has its moments, but is it the film Martin Landau deserved as his farewell performance? Howard Weiner directs from his own screenplay. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
It should be remembered that barring other films waiting to be released, this will probably be the final film of a great actor. Martin Landau died last July 15 (at age 89). He had a long and impressive career. In 1959 he played a (probably) gay henchman of a master spy played by James Mason in NORTH BY NORTHWEST. He played the central character in Woody Allen's best film (in my opinion), CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS. He played Bela Lugosi in ED WOOD. Now his final film is ABE & PHIL'S LAST POKER GAME.
As the film opens, Dr. Abe Mandlebaum (Martin Landau), is leaving his last home, and going to live in a senior living center to be near his wife Molly who suffers from dementia. Abe knows the move is necessary, but it is a blow to his dignity to be forced to live with other elderly people. He grasps at shreds of his self-esteem by correcting anyone who calls him "Mister" and insists he be called "Doctor."
Soon Abe meets Phil (Paul Sorvino, aged 78), who brags about the large number of women he has slept with. The two discuss at length their sex lives and how much they hate their current dysfunction. The film takes on some of the aspects of a teen-age sex comedy. They are both befriend a nurse, new to the center, who it turns out has a hidden agenda. The two balance these youthful urges against their acceptance of aging and the inevitability of death. Abe compromises his dignity and talks on Phil's level about his attempts to rekindle the dying flame of sexuality.
The story has vulgarities that seems unlike Landau's usual screen persona. On the other hand, we get very few movies about the aged living out the last chapters, or perhaps paragraphs, of their lives. The subject of they elderly is rarely treated in films, much less if the subject is elder sexuality. The treatment of either sex or death and the elderly is not a topic likely to attract a wide audience.
Are Abe's and Phil's observations on sex and death credible? They seem to be. But ask me again in twenty years and I will have a better idea. Currently I rate ABE & PHIL'S LAST POKER GAME a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. The film will have a limited release beginning January 12.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5175636/reference
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/abe_and_phils_last_poker_game
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2018 Mark R. Leeper