Just Getting Started – 2017

Written and Directed by Ron Shelton
Starring  Morgan Freeman, Tommy Lee Jones, Rene Russo, Joe Pantoliano, Glenne Headly, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Elizabeth Ashley, George Wallace, Graham Beckel, Jane Seymour, Johnny Mathis

Good Lord it’s a shame the amount of talent just blowing in the wind for a movie like Just Getting Started. The idea of Rene Russo, Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones in a Ron Shelton production would have been top of the line in the early 90’s. That Shelton hasn’t had a decent film since his last collaboration with Russo in 1996’s Tin Cup should be telling that there is not much to be expected from this film. Even that film is in the shadows of his two master works, Bull Durham and White Men Can’t Jump. What the hell has happened to him?

The story of how this film got made is probably 100 fold more interesting than the movie itself. Broad Green Pictures, the movie studio producing, had shut down its entire production division 3 months before this one limped into the box office in November. One of its supporting players, the beautiful and talented Glenne Headley died this summer before its release. The film had scant advertising prior to its release and was gone after 2 weeks. What the hell happened to this production?

The story, from what one can tell, is a mob mother sends one of her son’s to go kill an informant (Freeman) who’s made it big in relocation. His new world is running a high-end retirement village. He’s the cock of the walk, so to speak. Until high roller Tommy Lee shows up, throwing him off his game.

Soon after Russo appears. I am pretty sure that both pursue her, but only Tommy Lee cares. That’s okay though, because Freeman soon finds her to be yet another bee in his bonnet? Why? Because the plot demands it, but not in any logical way. Just in a, give them something to do way.

Random facts are added to this plot. Diversions and slight changes in motivation arrive and almost immediately are replaced by others. Nothing really sticks beyond someone really wants to knock off Freeman. Only in the dumbest ways possible, though.  Three very loud attempts and one kidnapping later, the cops haven’t even been notified.

Jones, Russo and Freeman have almost zero chemistry onscreen. There is no attempt at forming a cohesive set of events to go along with the limping costars onscreen. There are attempts at wacky hijinks that are half-assed at best. The one liners die halfway through delivery. People like Pants, Headly, Wallace and Sheryl Lee Ralph stand around like the out of work comedians in Sandler Grown Ups movies.

One of the most telling points in this film is when Jones and Freeman are pontificating about love in the cab of a tow truck. The conversation starts with one statement, then the other speaks, the first tries to talk again. Silence. Then just as the second starts to spout a half-hearted plea of love, the driver just starts singing a Christmas song…of which he knows only two lines. Then he looks to the others to fill in. Neither of them are sure.

I don’t think this was scripted. I don’t even think it was improvised. I am pretty sure it was just boredom. See this film only if you can’t live without seeing Russo in everything.

(* out of *****)

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