Transparent and Still Mine: highly recommended

I’m always hungry for films that portray aging and relationships insightfully, teaching me something new and unexpected.

Amazon Prime jolted me recently with two stellar offerings — one series and one film — that feature aging characters who don’t fit any of the stereotypes. Both affected me profoundly, and I recommend them to you:


At 68, Mort (played masterfully by Jeffrey Tambor) comes out as a trans woman who wants to be called Maura. In this sweet, smart, and strongly acted ensemble series, we see the strengths and vulnerabilities of Mort/Maura and a family of ex-wife and three adult children — who make a ton of relationship mistakes of their own.

This 10-episode series resolves many questions and leaves enough unanswered to allow for a second season, which is in the works — hurray!

Yes, there’s lots of sex in Transparent, but (boo) only Maura’s children are having it. Maura is more interested in establishing her identity and being accepted by her family than in having sex with anyone — at least in season 1. Will this change in the second season?

Still Mine

Craig (James Cromwell) is watching Irene (Geneviève Bujold), his wife of 61 years, lose her memory. He loves her fiercely and wants to protect her by building a house that will be easier for her to live in.

Although Craig has been building houses his whole life, he’s no match for the bureaucracy that insists on permits and strict adherence to building codes that are irrelevant to Craig  (the plans are in his head; the lumber came from a tree he felled; the knowledge came from his father and a lifetime of craftsmanship and self-sufficiency).

The love and chemistry between Craig and Irene are powerful. The tenderness in their loving looks and caresses will make you applaud or cry or both. And rather than portray this elderly couple as sexless, there’s a sexy undressing scene early in the film that includes, “This never gets old. We always did passion well.”

This film is based on real people and actual events. Don’t miss it.

What films have you watched that portrayed aging and relationships in a non-stereotypical way? I look forward to your recommendations.

Hope Springs: a springboard for discussion

Let’s talk about the film Hope Springs. It’s an excellent springboard for talking abut senior sex and communication. If you’ve seen it and you’re part of our boomer/ senior/ elder generation, would you help me get the discussion going right here on this blog?

I hope you’ll read my discussion with writer David Templeton about the film in the Pacific Sun. Here are excerpts — and click here for the complete article.  (Warning: spoiler alert.)

“What bothered me, at first,” Price says, “was that the filmmakers seemed to be making fun of something that is an enormous issue for seniors, something that isn’t really a laughing matter. I couldn’t see what Kay [Streep] saw in Arnold [Jones], and I couldn’t understand how two people in their 60s, in 2012, ended up with this 1950s-style marriage. They sleep in separate rooms, they never talk, she does all the cooking and cleaning even though they both have full-time jobs, they don’t talk about anything except his job and golf, and they never do anything together—and by anything I especially mean…sex.”

…”What was wonderful about the film,” Price says, “once it got to Hope Springs and the therapy sessions, was that it settled down and took its time to flesh out some very real concerns and fears that older people have. At first we think that Arnold is the one who turned away from Kay, but then she admits that it was she who stopped having sex with him. But by then, after she started to miss it, there were so many hurt feelings and misunderstandings between them, that it was just a big mess.”

…”It actually bothered me a little,” says Price, “that Dr. Feld didn’t suggest that they get a medical opinion. If something changes in a man’s sex drive, there is often a medical reason. Men don’t stop wanting sex overnight, even if their wife did turn them down one or two times too often. That might happen gradually, but if it’s sudden, then a man really needs to see a doctor. In this movie, we learn that he’s having erectile problems, and is afraid to put it to the test, so he avoids sex. But erectile problems could be an indication of heart disease, or diabetes, or any number of other treatable diseases. That message was never put into the movie, and it should have been, by the therapist, if no one else.”

…”I wonder,” asks Price, “if, at any point in this couple’s history, there was ever any sex between them that was for her pleasure? The therapist even—and this completely shocked me—asked if she’d ever had orgasms…’vaginal or otherwise.’ Excuse me? Orgasms come from the clitoris. Was this guy trained in the 1940s? 

What are your views about the movie, the sex education in it, the realism? Please comment. It’s great if you use a first name (it doesn’t have to be your own) when you comment instead of “Anonymous” — just so we can address each other if we want to bounce off each other’s ideas. I look forward to reading your comments.

I also encourage you to talk about it with your partner if you have one, with your friends, with anyone who will participate. That’s my mission after all — to talk out loud about senior sex — and this film lubricates the topic, so to speak.

Don’t “Play the Game”: movie review

Update 7/3/12: I’m sorry that Andy Griffith died, and I worry that his death will create interest in Play the Game, an awful movie. I’m moving my review from August 2009 to the top today, hoping to steer you away from spending your valuable time seeing this film. No, it doesn’t empower seniors or teach about senior sex — quite the opposite. — Joan Price

You’d think that a lively movie about elders dating and having sex (or wanting to) would be just the kind of film I’d applaud. I did applaud the idea of Play the Game when I first heard about it — until I actually viewed it. Maybe I’m just too sensitive about senior sex, but I found this film neither funny nor instructive. In fact, I found it cringe-worthy for these reasons:

1. The whole premise of the movie is that widowed Grandpa Joe(Andy Griffith), living in a retirement community, is lonely but doesn’t know how to play dating games, while surrounded by women, one of whom (Doris Roberts) he’d like to date, and another (Liz Sheridan) who wants to seduce him. Grandson David (Paul Campbell) takes the old man under his wing and teaches him to manipulate women.

We’re led to think that Grandpa will end up reversing roles and educating Grandson about how to stop playing games and communicate honestly, respect women, and create meaningful relationships — something Grandson has been unable to do in his own life. But (spoiler alert:) the opposite happens. We learn that the object of Grandson’s affections (Marla Sokoloff) has been manipulating him more than he’s been manipulating her, and has taught her grandmother (Roberts) to do the same. There, I’ve ruined the ending for you and you don’t have to go see it.

The characters all deserve each other.

2. One of the so-called hilarious incidents is Liz Sheridan as an elder seductress crushing Viagra into a glass, adding wine, and giving it to her seductee without telling him what’s in the glass. This is such a horrible, dangerous idea that I couldn’t suspend my reality check long enough to laugh at the predictible results.

“It’s a miracle!” exclaims our re-energized and rising hero. It wouldn’t have been a miracle if he had been on heart medicine — it would have been a death scene. How funny is that? (This scene used to be online, but seems to have disappeared.)

If you must see this (and I don’t recommend it, unless you want to see if you agree with me), please take a teenager with you and plan a long talk afterwards to debunk everything you saw. Otherwise, your teen might see it on his/her own and believe the dating advice aimed at both young folks and seniors.

My verdict: Ick, skip it. Here’s the trailer, but it doesn’t show how bad it is or how insulting to seniors.

Hollywood Sex Wars: If this is young sex, I’m glad I’m old.

Hollywood Sex Wars is a hideous film. I detest these stereotypes:

  • Women are big-breasted lust machines, willing to do whatever it takes to please men as long as money and/or gifts are bestowed in exchange. 
  • Men are sex-crazed animals who don’t want relationships, just a quick get-in, get-off, get-her-outa-here, tell-the-guys. 

If this is young sex, I’m glad I’m old.

The plot is a 14-year-old boy’s wet dream – plenty of nipple shots, obscenities, drugs, and ordinary guys getting the hottest girls. FYI, despite the profusion of bare, jiggling, surgically (or digitally) enhanced breasts, penises are always off-camera, unless you count a couple of dildos.

I can only imagine the effect of the denigration of women’s looks on an impressionable, self-conscious teenage girl. Average-sized breasts are unsexy. Fuller sized bodies are unsexy. Average looks are ugly. The guys are far from dashing, but those who understand the attraction of money and drugs will score anyway. Yecchhh. Both genders are equally degraded.  

Typical lines from the movie:

  • “We don’t want girlfriends, we want to bang hot chicks.” 
  •  “Although girls want to get fucked and do drugs, you have to trick them into it.” 
  • “Hone your inner pig.” 
  • “The women we’re after are money grabbing hos.” 
  • (One woman to another:) “You like to fuck and party, don’t you? Those are marketable skills, and totally tax-free.” 

Ghastly, isn’t it? The girls barter gifts for sex (stripper shoes = a blow job; shoes costing over $500 = he gets laid). The boys learn to use cocaine to attract the hotties. Both genders are equally duplicitous and manipulative.

Shortly into the movie, I wanted to turn it off, write my review based on 15 minutes, and move on to work that didn’t leave the taste of dog poop in my mouth. But I wanted to see Fabio, the only person of our generation who, I discovered close to the end of the film, has ten seconds and one line in the entire movie. Totally not worth it.

The worst moment (of nothing but bad moments) for me as a sex educator is when one boy describes how he cuts a hole in the condom so that it rides up and away as the friction proceeds. By the time she knows, he pretends he’s so big that it broke. This is followed by a brief safe sex warning, which is undermined by everything else in the film. When one girl finds herself pregnant, for example, she hits up maybe a dozen sperm shooters for abortion funds.

Of course one couple falls in love despite the training from their homies, with sweet background music, walks in the park, posing with statues, you get the picture. Equally predictably, their pals manipulate the dissolution of their relationship. I won’t tell you how that ends, because, frankly, who cares?

If more than five people see this despicable, reeking repository of vomit-worthy stereotypes, I’ll have failed in my duty to inform you.

So why am I, a senior sex writer with a reputation to uphold, using my precious time and yours to review this loser film that none of you will ever see (please promise me that)?

Hollywood Sex Wars was a reminder to me that if we’re to have a chance of changing our society’s view of older-age sexuality, we have to counsel young people about theirs. Who better to help young folks put relationships and sexuality in perspective than those of us who have been around the block and figured out our own sexuality and self-image at age 20, 40, 60, and beyond.

Will they want to talk sex with us? Surely not at first, but if we continue to be outgoing, candid, and respectful of ourselves and them (something the movie doesn’t even pretend to do) then we have a chance.

Thank you, Hollywood Sex Wars, for reminding me what we have to fight against.

I’d love to read comments from both my age and much younger. Tell me, have I done more harm than good by giving Hollywood Sex Wars the publicity of my review? Should I have listened to a friend of mine, who said, when I invited him to watch this movie with me:

I want to thank you for the invitation, but after watching the trailer, I decline. And I don’t know that your name should be heard anywhere near this movie.