Remember when a romantic comedy (or just a comedy) was described as the “feel-good film of the year”?
And perhaps you went to find the most obscure Andrei Tarkovsky film ever made to rid your eyeballs of this jaundiced American behemoth of a thing?
This week I went to see a movie that contained great pathos and energy, women seeking to share friendship and ageing and the American Superbowl (quite the behemoth in itself) and it won me over.
80 for Brady features four very dear women friends in their later years who discover NFL quarterback Tom Brady as a rookie for the New England Patriots in the year 2000. This coincides with one of the women, Lou (Lily Tomlin), recovering from chemotherapy.
This sets in train a yearly gathering of the group – Trish (Jane Fonda), Maura (Rita Moreno) and Betty (Sally Field) “I’m only in my 70’s” – who gather annually for what we in Australia would more comfortably describe as the American Football Grand Final.
Lou has decided that after the Pats (as they’re referred to locally) make the 2017 Superbowl, they all have to attend, arguing Brady is probably about to retire because he’s soon to turn 40 (or in human years, 80).
Lou enters a radio competition and wins four tickets, so in between sleeping and heart medications, retirement homes and the usual high jinks, the group sets out for the event, this year being held in Houston Texas.
The story runs a predictable course of triumph, let down and triumph again (there’s a formula to these things).
But what holds the movie together is the amazing energy and camaraderie between the four women – and of course these are some of the greatest American actresses of the last half century.
Tomlin, who has divided her career equally between comedy and dramatic roles, again teams up with her Nine to Five (1980) and Grace and Frankie co-star, Fonda. They share an obvious bond, having known each other for more than half a century, and one gets the feeling half the script is being ad-libbed because they are so comfortable with the writing.
Betty plays the straight card in the deck, the mathematician designed to be the grown-up one, and Maura (yes that Rita Moreno from West Side Story back in 1961) is lamenting the death of her late husband and seems to be in a deep funk.
Of course they get to the Superbowl in the end, some important words are imparted to Brady, as the Pats are down in the third quarter against the Atlanta Falcons.
It should also be noted this game was genuinely one of the most startling comebacks in Superbowl history and the film captures the sporting grandeur of it quite well – my eldest son and I watched the real thing in real time, utterly gobsmacked.
After the game, truths are learned, friendships reconfigured and we prepare ourselves for a new chapter.
Brady was the producer of this film but it is no vainglorious exercise: he simply wanted to pay tribute to the women who inspired him.
As profiled on American CBS, the real “Over 80 for Brady” club consisted of five women: Elaine, Betty, Anita, Pat, and Claire. Friends for more than 70 years, they united in their love for the New England Patriots and star quarterback Brady after they all became widows.
“It’s really nice that it’s based on a true story,” says Fonda. “That made it even more special.”
80 for Brady is no earth-shattering film but is gentle, heartwarming and genuine. Pop out the prosecco and popcorn; three stars out of five.
80 for Brady is showing at most major cinema chains. Marcus Kelson is a Canberra writer and critic.