Is there an actor in the history of film who’s enjoyed a better third act in his career than Christopher Plummer?
Rhetorical question, of course there hasn’t. An Oscar, his choice among all the roles available to actors of his vintage able to deftly manage curmudgeon, eminence grise or guff, cuddly codger, he’s constantly employed and always a pleasure to watch.
In “Boundaries,” he lights up a seriously lightweight road trip farce, playing the aged hippy pot dealer who passed on his “issues” to a semi-manic self-diagnosed neurotic single-mom (Vera Farmiga) and her “weird” passive-aggressive teen (Lewis MacDougall).
Laurie set an alarm as her phone ringtone from her father, alerting her that these are the calls she’s not going to answer. And he calls. A lot.
“He has a condition,” is all she’ll tell her shrink. So she won’t talk to him, avoiding bringing back up “years of disappointment.”
“You set boundaries,” the therapist is relieved to hear. Then she spies the kitten in Laurie’s purse.
“I thought you weren’t going to pick up any more strays this month?”
Laurie has a “condition,” too. She’s filled her house with stray dogs and cats, covering the bed, rubbing themselves over whoever’s sleeping with her and driving them away.
Which suits her sullen son Henry (MacDougall, of “A Monster Calls”). He has a tendency to draw anatomically insulting nudes of whoever he doesn’t like — mom’s beaus, teachers at school. He’s “special” and they kick him out after one incident too many.
And mom’s ditzy rich employer — she’s an “executive assistant” — is no help. Maybe it’s time to listen to her sweetly flaky LA sister (Kristen Schaal, of course) and take the Old Man’s calls. Because whatever retirement home he’s being kicked out of this time, Jack Jaconi always has money.
“My side venture” sees to that. But hell, pot’s being legalized here, there and everywhere. “Takes all of the fun out of it.” He’ll go stay with Laurie. No? Her sister, then. And not by plane. That’d force him to leave behind is ancient Rolls Royce (A gold 1970s Silver Shadow, maybe?).
And that would deprive the “dying” old man the chance to bond with daughter and “accomplice” grandson, and this Shana Feste (“Country Strong,” “Endless Love”) road picture of its road.
Funny thing about that, “Boundaries” was filmed mostly in and around Vancouver. So all the stops they make along the way — wouldn’t be a road picture without Jack insisting on “detours,” to catch up with old pothead pals (Christopher Lloyd), Buddhist retreat customers and Laurie’s ex (Bobby Cannavale) — are in ports, coastal evergreen forests and the like. They don’t ID the locations because it looks like a 20 hour drive down to LA on the map. That would make this a 50 minute movie.
“Cross country” they call it, and that’ll have to do.
Jack cutely explains his livelihood to the kid with a “Your grandfather’s got a green thumb.”
The wary kid makes a “cute” cutting crack about how he’s “too old to molest.” The old man isn’t offended.
“You couldn’t get molested with a bow in your hair!”
We suspect the old coot is lying about not having “much time life.” And we, like the writer-director, have a hard time getting a handle on Laurie’s manic personality, her bizarre connection to her on-the-spectrum ex (Cannavale), though her need to create “family” by filling her life with strays earns the Psychology 101 treatment. Critters approach her at gas stations, etc., all along the route, drawn to her by instinct and plot device.
“You’re like the Pied Piper of mange!” the old man chortles.
The dialogue and performances are far more interesting than the lazy, cliche-ridden story Feste cooked up.
The kid character is underdeveloped, Farmiga’s Laurie is like a needs-help/gets-help/self-help caricature.
But Plummer’s ready twinkle makes “Boundaries” (June 22) go down easily, even if he’s old enough to be Farmiga’s granddad, even if Lloyd is the more on-the-nose casting choice if you’re looking for a ’60s stoner in his dotage.
Feste may be building a career out of reaching for sentimental, easy laughs and tugs on the heartstrings. But even she knows that would have been too on-the-nose.
MPAA Rating: R (for drug material, language, some sexual references and nude sketches)
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Christopher Plummer, Lewis MacDougall, Kristen Schaal, Bobby Cannavale
Credits: Written and directed by Shana Feste. A Sony Pictures Classics release.
Running time: 1:44