One of the many perks that comes with being unemployable is that I’m able to go to movies on week days. Actually, now that I think about it, I guess I used to go to matinees even when I still had a job, which might explain why I haven’t received a paycheck since Friends was in prime time. It’s not easy living with a popcorn addiction.
Because the movies I go to start around 11 a.m., and because most of them are foreign, independent or award-nominees, there’s usually a certain type of person who’s sitting in the theater with me. The type of person who shares my freedom, my artistic sensibilities and my intense hatred of candy that gets stuck to dental work.
The type of person who’s 80.
Most days, it’s just me and the cast of Cocoon craning our necks towards whatever is flashing on the silver screen. The white haired women are usually in groups of two or three, but sometimes they’ll bring along an older gentleman who’s most likely wearing suspenders and a cardigan, and who would certainly be happy to tell me why my political views are all wrong, if just given the chance. I really don’t mind this golden-aged company at all, even though in the past few years I’ve been:
– Tripped by canes
– Hit by a motorized scooter
– Caught wearing the same sweater as a 90-year-old
– Yelled at to put away my “godforsaken cellular telephone”
– Told I look like Angela Landsbury
Of course, the worst part about seeing movies with the senior brigade is their hearing problems. Despite the theater blasting the sound at rock concert decibel levels, some of the older folks still have trouble catching everything the actors say. Especially if there’s a British accent involved. That means I’m then treated to a very loud whisper/yell exchange like this, right in the middle of a hot Daniel Craig sex scene:
“Iris! Iris! What’d he say?”
“He said, ‘I love you.'”
“He said, ‘I love you.'”
“‘I LOVE YOU!'”
“Oh, that’s nice. I love you, too, honey. Boy, that fella’s sure muscular.”
After the movie’s over, I wait in my seat a few minutes so I can slowly walk out of the theater behind the seniors. I do this to be polite, of course, but also because I love to listen to their off-the-cuff reviews. Unlike a lot of younger people, they don’t pull any punches. Ben Stiller? Overrated. Johnny Depp? Too skinny. Julia Roberts? Well, she’s no Ava Gardner, but then again, who is? Not even Ava Gardner’s Ava Gardner anymore. And don’t even get them started on “that awful f-word.” They hate the f-word.
But as entertaining as the silver haired critics can be, my very favorite moviegoers are the ones who look like they’ve been married to each other forever. The ones who still reach across the armrest for their sweetheart’s hand in the dark. I like to think of them sitting next to each other while watching Singin’ in the Rain for the first time. Or North by Northwest. Or The Graduate. I think of the shared movie experiences they’ve had. All of the magic they’ve seen up on the screen. The incredible moments they’ve witnessed in their long lives, both real and pretend.
And I hope with all my heart that when my husband and I are their age, we’ll still hold hands in the dark, too.
No matter how good the movie we just saw was, once the lights come up, there’s always one older person who’ll turn to her companions and say with a rueful grin, “Well, they just don’t make them like they used to.” Her friends will all shake their heads, grab their purses and murmur their assent, and I desperately want to run over and yell, “I know! I know what you mean! There’s no Cary Grant! There’s no Robert Redford! There are no movie stars left! Whatever happened to Hollywood glamour? Whatever happened to the mystery? Judd Apatow? Really?” But I don’t.
Instead, I go outside into the bright, blinding day, fumble for my keys, and walk to my car alone. I look back and see the older gentlemen straining to hold the doors open for the ladies while the theater employee sitting there completely ignores them. The women, with their lipstick and earrings and coordinated outfits, and the men, with their backs as straight as they can possibly get, stand in the warm sunshine laughing and chatting. They ask how each other is doing and then lean in close so their ears don’t miss the answer. Nobody’s in a hurry. Nobody’s in a rush. Nobody’s checking their email or tweeting or updating their Facebook page. They’re simply enjoying the company of their friends. Enjoying a lovely day out at the movies.
No, they sure as hell don’t make them like they used to.