Well, here’s one for the books. Make that a charming, sweet one for the books. One featuring drugs and sex and fast driving, and a cast made up almost entirely of actors who are of “a certain age.”
You could say that “Senior Moment” - a misleading title, as there’s nothing about memory loss in it - was custom made for an audience that’s usually ignored by film companies. But it goes way beyond that. Sure, there are a couple of very different acting icons with the spotlight on them. William Shatner, who just turned 90 (but was “only” 88 when the film was shot) stars as Victor, a war veteran and former jet pilot, who now gets his kicks in his Palm Springs community by zipping around in his shiny Porsche and ogling every young woman he sees (thankfully, he does it in a charming, not lascivious manner). His longtime best friend Sal is played by Christopher Lloyd (82), who lives in a Palm Springs senior center, but comes and goes as he pleases, and is convincingly spry in his performance. The third lead, Caroline - who just could turn out to be a romantic interest for Victor - is by Jean Smart who, in real-life, is a girlish 69 years old.
But the actual ages of these folks - even of the characters they play - isn’t important (although it’s a bit strange that Victor is supposed to be 72). The story is about how society looks at people who physically appear to be “old,” but have their younger lives still spinning on the inside.
Victor is a very good driver, but he also has a reckless, daredevil version always ready to break loose. After one too many traffic violations, in a town where every cop knows him, he has his license revoked and his prize car impounded. He’ll get everything back in a while, if he can pass a driving test that proves him fit.
This initially shatters him, as it completely disrupts his man-about-town lifestyle, and forces him to walk instead of drive, then take bus rides - something that was never on his agenda - when the walking tires him out.
Though his friendship with Sal never suffers, Victor does have some new people enter his life, the most significant of them being Caroline, who runs a cute little café in town, has never been married (neither has Victor), and proves to be someone that he enjoys talking with. But as they get closer, Victor begins to wonder if he’s the only man in her life, as he sees her, from afar, on numerous occasions, with a local artist named Diego (Esai Morales, a mere 58 in real life), and he experiences some pangs of jealousy.
It’s a cleverly written and nicely acted plot development, because viewers are also kept in the dark about what appears to be an overly friendly relationship between Caroline and Diego. But while all of this is going on, the film keeps returning to Victor’s concerns about getting his license and his true love - that Porsche - back. Those scenes bring some wonderful bits of comedy, both in the script, and from Shatner’s natural comic timing in his line delivery and with his facial expressions.
If one of the film’s characters seems to be a slick huckster, and another comes across as a tough punk, don’t worry. There’s a lot of façade going on here. This is a movie that’s packed with nice characters doing good things. The biggest surprise about that is that it’s never the least bit saccharine. It’s appealing and warm and funny. And you don’t have to be on Social Security to enjoy it.