Old age and a struggle for relevance seem to go hand in hand. How will Reynolds explore that in his next movie?
The 2018 Winter Olympics are in full swing. Athletes with finely tuned instruments for bodies, who’ve invested thousands of hours in harnessing their physical prowess, have converged in South Korea to test their skill. At the other end of the spectrum, the trailer for The Last Movie Star has dropped. Why might those two be (loosely) related? Old age catches up with us all if we are lucky. And if age brings wisdom, then so too does it bring the realization that all things fade away. Glory and adoration most of all. At least, so goes the old man’s lament, right?
Burt Reynolds plays a retired stunt man and actor who decides to attend a film festival in Nashville, which intends to honor him with a lifetime achievement award. Once he arrives, he realizes he’s been duped. Or perhaps that he’s just an old sucker. The festival is just a bunch of yahoo kids.
And so he dwells, maimed, in the presence of immortal youth. Y’all read Tennyson, right?
It’s difficult not to watch this trailer and see the movie as a thinly veiled look at Reynolds himself. After all, he didn’t spend his career as a critics darling. But my goodness if he didn’t make some entertaining movies that connected with people.
We give a lot for our craft. Our pursuits. Whatever they are. We struggle and sacrifice. When we are afforded the opportunity to revel in glory, like those athletes at the Olympics, it makes it seem worthwhile. Fifty years down the road, what will all that struggle mean to us? Is recognition a drug?
These types of movies aren’t about death, though they do frequently involve it. These types of movies are about connections. As life goes on, we can become isolated. It’s less that recognition is a drug and more that the loss of connection and relevance is painful. The truth is, most of us have to search to find our answer. Jack Palance might have said our one thing.
Reynolds has a fan base. At 82, he’s been in the movie business for six decades. He’s got fans of every age. Weirdly, because of his cameo appearances on the animated tv comedy Archer, there’s a very good chance a not insignificant portion of his fandom know him primarily as Sterling Archer’s hero and would-be step-father.
Old Man films are a fascinating genre unto themselves. I’m not talking great Old Man characters. Rather, I mean movies expressly about old men. It isn’t Grumpy Old Men or Going In Style everywhere you look. Last year, Harry Dean Stanton gave us the beautifully candid Lucky. No longer burdened by the desire to maintain a career furthering image, if they ever were bound by such pursuits, we get a chance to see them.
It’s not so much a rite of passage for these actors, but an earned honor. It’s their moment to show us something that means something to them. Stanton and Reynolds had careers defined by hard work, but let’s be honest. Once you’re in your eighties or nineties, you’re doing something because it is deeply personal to you.
It’s scary how relatable they can be. The finiteness of life is terrifyingly relatable but deeply fascinating. Where will The Last Movie Star take us? I’m not sure. But, let’s see what Reynolds has to say. The film premieres on DirecTV on February 22nd and in theaters on March 30th.