Turns out, old people have sex too.
Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep’s new romantic comedy Hope Springs comes out this weekend, and it’s another reminder that yes, old people have sex. But while it’s ostensibly a comedy, it looks like it won’t be falling into the low-hanging fruit category of “Elderly people having sex is icky and therefore hilarious.” It’s rare to see sexuality past a certain age portrayed as something real, emotional, or just awesome (frankly, who among us wants to stop having sex?), and so we’re taking a look at other films that portrayed old people sex as something not worthy of ridicule or revulsion.
1. It’s Complicated (2009)
Meryl Streep appeared quite a bit in our, er, research for this list, but it doesn’t really come as much surprise: if you’re looking for someone who’s aged with grace and a refreshing lack of fucks given, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone better than Streep. And as for silver foxes, we’re not sure it gets much foxier than Alec Baldwin (who at this point in his life has essentially become Jack Donaghy) and Steve Martin. While this film does tend to rely a little on the absurdities of older people running around having affairs like the youngs do (having Streep make Baldwin turn around before she gets dressed, for example) it’s ultimately a rather refreshing look at how older people are just as entitled to sex lives as their younger counterparts.
2. Never Again (2001)
Not a critical fave, but more well-received by moviegoers, Never Again’s main thrust is the classic vow (usually made by twentysomethings) to never fall in love again. (That threat generally has more power behind it when it’s uttered by bitter people in their fifties.) Never Again throws a whole lot of old people sex at the viewer, and perhaps surprisingly, a lot of it lands without a sense of novelty or disgust, mostly thanks to Jeffrey Tambor and Jill Clayburgh as the leads: Tambor in particular, suffuses much of his performance with an undercurrent of hangdog melancholy, which leavens some of the more farfetched elements (Clayburgh + strap-on) of the film.
3. Something’s Gotta Give (2003)
Nancy Meyers’ second film on this list, Something’s Gotta Give concerns confirmed bachelor Jack Nicholson, whose sex life with a parade of younger women is interrupted by a mild coronary. While recuperating, he and Diane Keaton, a playwright who firmly believes she’s done with love and relationships, slowly move towards a relationship. As with It’s Complicated, Something’s Gotta Give remains more watchable than its setup would suggest, largely because of Meyers’ pacing and casting, and because of how effectively Nicholson and Keaton portray two people who've seen it all whene it comes to the gamesmanship of courtship, but who are unable to resist joining in once again.
4. Away From Her (2007)
The only captial “f” Film on this list, and a tribute to how unwilling Hollywood generally is to play intimacy among older people as anything but comedy, Away From Her is an extremely considerate and touching (you will cry) film about one couple’s marriage weathering Alzheimer’s. Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent have a love scene just before she’s taken to a nursing home, and… well, “moving” doesn’t really cover it. It’s just kind of crushing. A reminder that life doesn’t always accomodate love quite like it should.
5. Boynton Beach Club (2005)
Decently reviewed, if a bit… off in the execution, Boynton Beach Club is best charitably described as a teen-sex comedy set at a retirement home. That’s not an entirely condemning review: the film should be thanked somewhat for showing the vicissitudes of dating and sex at an old age, even if it does that with the subtlety of Dyan Cannon’s plastic surgeries (Read: none) at some points. There is, however, a great bedroom scene between Sally Kellerman (Hot Lips from M.A.S.H.) and Len Carou that manages to be funny and sweet without being cloying, something the rest of the film doesn’t exactly match.