Play the Game

by Rick Grant

Grade: B+ / Rated PG / 90 min
Here is a charming story that crosses-over three generations. The scenario, written and directed by Marc Fienberg, involves the relationship between a young man, David Mitchell (Paul Campbell) and his elderly grandfather of 84, Grandpa Joe (Andy Griffith).
After Grandpa lost his wife, he is lonely and looking for companionship. His grandson, David is trying to encourage Grandpa to get back into the dating scene and find a woman. His advice is based on his dishonest mind games with young women, which gets him in trouble with a woman he really likes, Julie, (Maria Sokoloff) who may be playing her own game.
The fact that Grandpa’s grandson is willing to visit him at his old people’s home shows he has character and love for Grandpa. Of course, his advice and silly games do not work with Grandpa, who plunges into meeting women his own age with abandon.
Fienberg’s premise shows the two men, separated by many years, walking a parallel course in the mine field of romance. It’s a lesson in how the young and old have much to learn from each other if only they would reach out to bridge the gap like the two characters in Fienberg’s screenplay.
Of course, Andy Griffith’s character is the main stand-out in this scenario as he discovers Viagra and a new world of being a chick magnet. David, on the other hand, plays his game on Julia which backfires when she tells him that she is looking for someone who can be honest with himself and her. David using the tired trick of pretending to be her platonic friend, hoping that she will fall in love with him fails. It almost works after they make love for the first time. But Julie is hip to his tricks and puts him in love limbo.
Oh, the humanity and pain of love rejected is David’s new mantra. In contrast, Grandpa has become a swinger at the home, with a stable of lovers. The contrast between Granpa’s love life and David’s failure of his relationship with Julie throws him for a loop. Yes, Grandpa is no longer the depressed lonely guy and David is regretful that he played his foolish game on Julie.
The iconoclastic aspects of Grandpa’s love life show an elderly gentleman in a different context. Just because he’s 84 doesn’t mean that he can’t find love and sex. To his credit, Fienberg has made a valiant effort to break the agism barrier. Who better to do this than the veteran actor, Andy Griffith. He destroys his past character stereotypes with this savvy performance and the character contrast between Sherriff Andy, Matlock and Grandpa will delight Griffith fans.
The moral of this tale (and its not preachy) is always be honest with yourself and with those people you care about. In one hilarious sex scene with veteran actress Liz Sheridan, Grandpa experiences the joy of oral sex for the first time. It’s all done tastefully, and Griffith and Sheridan make it work with humor and joy.
Hopefully, more young filmmakers will explore this image breaking concept of bringing the young and the elderly together in a poignant story that explodes the myths about old age. We live in an age prejudice culture that has been programmed to fear old age and ignore the problems of their elderly parents or grandparents. Movies like this will help young people to look at their aged grandparents in a whole new light.