You’ve seen Tom Bower in scores of films over the years, brief appearances that leave a mark in “Die Hard 2,” “Light of My Life” or the “Breaking Bad” movie — “El Camino.”
Parked front and center in an indie drama for once, he gives a performance for the ages in “Senior Love Triangle,” a stark, harrowing and touching portrait of what we euphemistically call “The Twilight Years” and one man raging “at the dying of the light.”
It’s based on a famous Isadora Kosofsky photo essay about just what some of the extremely elderly are up to in their dotage. Past and present collide, or are confused for one another, and romance and dreams die hard in the generations that live on past 80.
Bower stars as William Selig, a gruff and bluff Navy veteran who seems to remember he used to be somebody. In his mind, he still is, “closing this deal” that he promises will make him flush, bullying “John” on the other end of his cell phone conversations to make this go through.
The fetching Adina (Anne Gee Byrd of “Wild”) can’t hide her adoration of his take-charge bluster.
“I’m gonna get you OUTTA that dump,” he says of the posh L.A. assisted living facility where they live. He drives her around in his forty year-old Mercedes, wines her and dines her and fields calls. And every so often, they hit her ATM.
William is evicted. He stopped making payments on his room in their facility, and now the authorities and her son are tossing him out.
“Haven’t you spent enough of my mother’s money?”
That barely slows William down. Sure, she’s Jewish, as is her son. But Adina is “surrounded by Nazis,” and only he can “save” her.
First, though, he needs another place to live. The WWII Pacific Theater veteran is used to raising his voice, getting his back up and bullying staff to get what he wants. Spencer (Travis Van Winkle) is in the middle of showing William the amenities at Gramercy Towers when he gets an “I don’t like your TONE,” from the old man in the Navy Veteran cap.
“We are versed in the care of the elderly,” Spencer says, apologizing and pointing out his degree in gerontology.
“You’re a CHILD.”
Spencer’s getting off easy. “Nazis” and “Vichy swine” are the preferred non-profane insults this man who “chased Tojo across the Pacific.” William is “a man of God” who answers to “no one,” and curses like the sailor he once was even as he invokes the Almighty. All that’s missing is a MAGA hat.
“Thank you, Richard Nixon,” he bellows after a bit of good news.
He’s got big plans, and this is but a setback. But Gramercy Towers is where he meets Jeanie (Maryln Mason, whose TV credits go back to “The Real McCoys”).
Great. Now William’s got TWO women he wants to take care of. That damned “John” better put that deal through, and quick!
Director and co-writer Kelly Blatz cooks up some great scenes showing the arc of the women’s relationship — mistrust, jealousy and insulting one-upmanship followed an uneasy truce that turns easier.
All those stories you’ve heard about “swinging” senior communities, VD outbreaks in Florida’s largest concentration of the elderly — The Villages — come to mind and find a depiction based in reality in “Senior Love Triangle.” There are “senior moments” ranging from mere confusion to deep, irrational delusions. We can sense it long before the script makes the degree of mental disconnect obvious.
And Bower tears through the scene and the scenery like a bull in a Chinatown shop, an old man not nearly as old as the movie would have us believe. Filmmakers should recognize that WWII vets are almost all gone, with survivors well into their 90s and none of them driving around LA.
The surface gloss of such movies about the very old is this notion of “one last great adventure,” even if it’s just a December-LATE December romance. But it is the dark undertow tugging at “Senior Love Triangle” that lingers, the bitter reminder of everything you lose control of and the predators, blowing up your phone, hoping to catch you in decline or in the middle of your worst “senior moment.”
MPAA Rating: unrated, violence, nudity, profanity
Cast: Tom Bower, Anne G. Byrd, Marlyn Mason and Travis Van Winkle
Credits: Directed by Kelly Blatz, script by Kelly Blatz and Isadora Kosofsky, based on Kosofsky’s photo documentary. A Gravitas Ventures release.
Running time: 1:32