American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"I'm getting old. And you're getting old, too." Mary looks her husband in the eyes and says out loud something they both know, but which only she is willing to deal with. Isabella Rossellini and William Hurt star in "Late Bloomers," an uneven but touching comedy with a cheery score that sounds too much like whistling on the way past the graveyard. Without even trying to be profound, the film communicates a great deal of truth. Perhaps it seems particularly true to me, because Rossellini and I both have our birthdays coming up on the 18th of this month. If she's old, I'm 10 years older.
Adam (Hurt) is an architect working in London. Mary (Rossellini), his wife, was born in Italy. They've been married for 30 years. The film opens with her undergoing a medical examination, which returns good news, but something like that can help you imagine the bells tolling. We see Mary taking exercise classes in a local swimming pool and looking for more to do with her time; her friend Charlotte (Joanna Lumley) suggests the old standby, volunteer work. Adam has just received the sort of award that comes near the end of a career and is incapable of thinking of his career in such a way.
They seem happy enough, although the actors are useful in suggesting their differences: Rossellini glows and has a warm smile as usual, and Hurt is detached and has his angular look as usual. Their three grown children sense something is shifting in the marriage.
Adam's firm was founded to take unpopular assignments and find exciting solutions for them. Now he's asked to design a senior retirement home, the last thing he could have wished for. Charlotte lines up Mary for volunteer work at a foundation where the woman in charge is unbearably condescending to a room full of her older volunteers. Although Mary was a teacher of advanced Italian, this horrible woman asks her to bake cakes.