Have you ever updated your resume and left out that brief, non-spectacular job you held for two months? Diane Keaton’s Oscar-winning career (Annie Hall, The Godfather) requires no vita, but if it did, the film Mack and Rita would not make the cut.
The movie runs a long 94-minutes. The first 20 minutes set up the story of 30-something Mack, played by Elizabeth Lail (Once upon a Time series, 2019-2021) who is the principal bridesmaid at her best friend Carla’s wedding. Carla, the only convincing character in the cast, is played by Taylor Paige (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, 2020).
Mack is a self-proclaimed old soul who just isn’t into the bachelorette party frenzy. Carla and the other excited co-celebrants convince Mack to throw caution to the wind and visit a fly-by-night-carny-fortuneteller. This entails a session in his refashioned “Regress and Be Blessed” tanning bed, from which Mack emerges as Rita, the 70-year-old version of herself, played by screen legend Diane Keaton.
Rita predictably encounters more success, a fun group of wine-loving seniors to hang out with, and a boyfriend half her age, played by Dustin Milligan (Schitt’s Creek series 2015-2020). If that’s not enough, with little or no apparent effort, Rita also becomes a well-paid influencer on Instagram.
This film might have been more interesting if screenwriters Madeline Walter and Paul Welsh (Killing It, TV series, 2020) hadn’t beat us over the head with Mack’s longings for her fantasy senior life. Perhaps if the action of the film had shown us this side of Mack, we might have been more willing to follow. As it was, we go along begrudgingly, hoping for some sparkle which never comes.
Mack and Rita is directed by Kate Aselton (Black Rock, 2012). In the end, Aselton’s effort lacks authority, that pillar of conviction which invites a viewer to stick with the ensemble as they work toward a shared goal.
It seems like she is so star struck by Diane Keaton that she gives in to all of Keaton’s character and wardrobe whims. In one interview. Keaton even confesses that she wore some of her own clothes for part. At times she appears to be playing herself, too. Her performance comes across as uninspired.
In Aselton’s defense, Keaton is apparently irresistible. Enter Woody Allen (Annie Hall, 1977), Warren Beatie (Reds, 1981), Jack Nicholson (Something’s Gotta Give, 2003) and Al Pacino (The Godfather I, II, and III, 1972, 1974, 1990), all leading men she whom she dated romantically for years, post-production.
Diane Keaton has always projected a trendsetting, effortless elegance on and off the screen. You never know, handing her the reins with a better script might have been a huge success. In multiple interviews, both Keaton and Aselton focus on how much fun they had making this film. They apparently lost sight of their audience because this film never really found one.
Having said all that, the underlying premise of Mack and Rita is extremely relevant. Lasting friendships and more intentional choices are obviously earth-moving, at any age. The COVID-19 pandemic shook our collective snow globe, and as things settle, trends do suggest that we are making more intentional choices.
One such example is the way many workers are choosing remote work over returning to the office, when given the choice. Working from home is clearly more family- friendly. One could argue it’s also more soul-friendly, with a little practice. Recent research even suggests remote workers are more productive.
We’re choosing more meaningful, rewarding lifestyles, sans the fake tanning bed. Watch for this theme to emerge again, hopefully better executed! From one fly-by-night-carny to another, “Progress and Be Blessed!”