“Old age ain’t no place for sissies.” So Bette Davis famously opined, voicing a view that could simply offer as a underline for “Abe Phil’s Last Poker Game.” Written and destined by remarkable neurologist and award-winning documentarian Howard L. Weiner (“What is Life? The Movie”) as his entrance thespian feature, this low-key and deeply felt indie is unsentimentally blunt while addressing a degrading debilitations that mostly conclude geriatric life. At a same time, however, it conscientiously eschews extreme grimness and shameless heart-tugging, and elicits some-more than a few laughs in a bargain, while focusing some-more mostly on how a pretension characters understanding with final chances and unprepared business.
Of course, a film comes with a baked-in romantic offshoot of being a showcase for a final shade coming of Martin Landau, who upheld divided final Jul during age 89. So it’s likely, if not inevitable, that his description of a unapproachable and achieved male in apparent earthy decrease will have a unhappy impact able of coloring anyone’s response, certain or otherwise, to “Abe Phil’s Last Poker Game.” But don’t let that keep we away: Landau’s opening here is a skilfully calibrated thing of beauty, and it ranks among his excellent work given his Oscar-winning spin as a thin Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood.”
Landau plays Dr. Abe Mandelbaum, an 83-year aged late cancer dilettante who moves into Cliffside Manor, an assisted-living facility, to sojourn with his mother of many years, Molly (Ann Marie Shea). Because of her solid deposit into dementia, she requires a arrange of consistent caring he’s no longer able of providing. But Abe himself stays amply sentient to correlate with others, and he fast develops a loyalty with Phil Nicoletti, a longtime proprietor vividly played with equal measures of robust gallows amusement and demure self-awareness by Paul Sorvino.
There are some richly laughable moments to be savored as Abe and Phil plead — infrequently bawdily, infrequently regretfully, always overtly — their discontinued passionate potency. (A good touch: One of a group seizes a moment, with churned results, when his concentration is quickly jump-started.) But only when it seems like a film will reveal like an all-male chronicle of D.L. Coburn’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “The Gin Game,” Weiner drops another impression into a mix: Angela Donadio (Maria Dizzia), a thirtysomething helper who befriends Abe and Phil — and who considers a probability that one or a other is a father she’s never known, though has spent years acid for.
Weiner ingeniously (albeit a tad obviously) utilizes Angela as a sounding house for both men, sketch them into revelatory conversations and enlivening their improved instincts. But a impression proves to be something appreciably some-more estimable than a small tract device, and Dizzia’s understatedly sensitive opening unequivocally scarcely places her on equal balance with her better-known co-stars. Better still, Angela literally gets a final word in a movie’s final moments, permitting “Abe Phil’s Last Poker Game” to advise that, yes, life unequivocally does go on.