DVD Review: Old Goats

STUDIO: Music Box | DIRECTOR: Taylor Guterson | CAST: Britton Crosley, Bob Burkholder, David Vander Wal, Benita Staadecker, Gail Shackel, Steve Stolee
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 1/21/2014 | PRICE: DVD $24.95
BONUSES: short film,  deleted/extended scenes, grandparents’ movie review, more
SPECS: NR | 94 min. | Comedy | 1.77:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

 

Once in a while, a movie comes along that radically changes your concept of contemporary cinema. You probably wouldn’t think that an unassuming low-budget film about three old men would deserve such hyperbole, and that’s probably true, but Old Goats, Taylor Guterson’s debut feature, is such a fresh and radical take on life after retirement that one can’t help but heap on the praise.

It’s the simplicity and honesty that makes Old Goats so eye-opening and charming. Hollywood’s interest in the senior set has pretty much been relegated to Grumpy Old Men gags or Godfather-like tough old bastards—in other words, caricatures. But Old Goats treats them like the human beings they actually are, something so ridiculously obvious, you don’t realize it’s been absent from mainstream cinema until you see it in front of you.

Old Goats movie scene

Bob Burkholder (l.) and David Vander Wal keep in going in Old Goats.

Following the daily challenges of David, Bob and Britt, the film deftly blends fact and fiction by having real-life David Vander Wal, Bob Burkholder and Britt Crosley play themselves. How much of this is scripted and how much is improvised is difficult to tell—sometimes the deliveries feel a little contrived, while other times you’re convinced it’s a documentary.

Like a good French New Wave pic, Old Goats is less about the plot and more about the characters—three very different men, who’s only connection is their retirement age, become friends as they help each other out through such mundane activities as grocery shopping and navigating the internet. I know, it sounds about as exciting as an Amway convention, but that’s where the brilliance lies. Rarely corny and never patronizing, Old Goats gives the audience, whatever its age, three people you can connect and identify with, even if their lives seem to be miles away from your own.

Though the lighting and art direction are as plain as it gets, and the camera work can be downright clunky, none of that really matters, because the writing and storytelling is that good. David’s realization that his comfy, affluent retiree life (complete with Florida home and trophy wife) isn’t nearly as fulfilling as advertised and is really no different than David Byrne shouting “You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?” Britt’s re-entry into the dating scene is just as awkward at 70 as it is at 17, and Bob, a cute old man with an incredibly sordid past, delivers an oft-forgotten fact: behind every cute old man lies a lifetime of actions that comprise the ugly, complex human animal we’re all guilty of being.

To see this all play out in a film full of colorful characters played by folks who are acting for the first time in their six or seven decades of existence is like smashing a hammer on our stereotypes and expectations. With the tiniest of budgets, director Guterson has quietly carved out an idiosyncratic but essential corner in the world of cinema. It’s gentle and good-natured, but no less poignant.

 

 

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About Memo

Memo Salazar attempts many things and accomplishes few. His big three are making films, music, and comics, but he'll throw photography, graphic design and film criticism into the ring for good measure. He'll even make you a hand-painted t-shirt if you ask nicely. You can track his activity here when there's nothing else to do at work.