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4 reviews, 15 user ratings

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Assisted Living
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by EricDSnider

"A slight movie, but a poignant, wry one."
4 stars

With regard to retirement centers and nursing homes, "assisted living" means more than just helping old people eat and get dressed. It means helping them to be happy, too -- really assisting them in living, in other words. This idea isn't explored much in movies (perhaps because films starring senior citizens are rarely blockbusters), but "Assisted Living" does it sweetly, with a dry sense of humor.

Shot cheaply and on location at a real, functioning nursing home by writer/director Elliot Greenebaum, "Assisted Living" is about a 20-something named Todd (Michael Bonsignore), a chronic pothead who passes his days working as a janitor and general go-to guy at an assisted-living center called Meadow View. He is not overtly compassionate toward his elderly charges, but he does care for them in his own way. Sometimes he'll help the more feeble ones make phone calls to "heaven" (really it's him on the other end of the line, speaking from a phone extension in another room), putting them in contact with deceased spouses and children, helping ease their fears about the Great Beyond. ("If you die in heaven, do you go to extra heaven?" one old man asks. Todd's answer, of course, is YES.)

If Hance Purcell (Clint Vaught), the head of Meadow View, is not thrilled with Todd's frequent tardiness and general unreliability, the patients are definitely his fans. One of them, Mrs. Pearlman (Maggie Riley), is beginning to show signs of Alzheimer's and is especially fascinated with Todd. Probably he reminds her of her son Jeremy, whom she says is living in Australia and whom she desperately wants to call on the phone. She clings to Todd, who is uneasy at first but whose secret love for these dear old souls wins out in the end.

Greenebaum often shoots "Assisted Living" like a documentary, putting some "interview" scenes on video instead of film and letting key characters talk to the camera. Other moments are more cinematic, though, as when he includes ethereally scored montages of daily life at Meadow View: people eating, taking medication, playing bingo, etc.

In all, the movie is a slight one, setting a poignant scene and dramatizing some simple events, but not quite filling out even its comparatively short running time of 75 minutes. Still, I like its wry sense of humor and its compassionate heart.

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originally posted: 05/16/05 07:17:58
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2003 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 CineVegas Film Festival. For more in the 2003 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Slamdance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Slamdance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Minneapolis/St.Paul Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Minneapolis/St.Paul Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/21/05 micah Macrae another example of a young idiot picking up a camera, saying, look ma, shucks, i made me... 1 stars
1/04/05 D C A great film from Elliot 5 stars
7/08/04 Dave Beautiful story. Lets you think and feel while watching -- doesn't force a message. 5 stars
6/26/04 Saul Breyer Film is touching and poignent. It is shot beautifully. 5 stars
10/29/03 Aaron This is a great film featuring an amazing performance by Bonsignore. 5 stars
9/24/03 James Sanchez Just won Woodstock Grand Prize & it deserved it. Poignent and timely. Next Wes Anderson! 5 stars
6/14/03 Bryan Abbott Only a cynical bastard could hate it. Worth Watching, Todd is a Gem, Needs Distributing! 5 stars
4/08/03 jason dietz a well made film by an obviously talented director 4 stars
3/16/03 James Mason Beautiful film 5 stars
3/11/03 Thomas Lynch Hysterical. 5 stars
3/11/03 Megan Lewis Great Movie 5 stars
3/10/03 Rachel Farbiarz A beautiful, challenging movie about getting old and getting what we need. 5 stars
3/10/03 David Corper Hillarious and Sad. Very Timely 5 stars
1/23/03 Mr Math Creepy stuff. 4 stars
1/15/03 Johnny great movie!! 5 stars
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  04-Feb-2005 (R)
  DVD: 10-Jan-2006



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