The Talent Given Us

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The Talent Given Us

(Above: Judy Wagner)

Quasi-fictional celebration of geriatric life roams but ultimately wins you over

In The Talent Given Us, a fastidious mother (Judy Wagner) drags her ailing, incontinent husband (Allen Wagner) and two aloof daughters (Emily Wagner, Maggie Wagner) from New York to Los Angeles in a minivan to visit their son (writer and director Andrew Wagner). Playing themselves in this work of “fiction,” Judy and Allen take center stage in a candid snapshot of an aging couple coming to grips with their declining health, petrified sex life, and attempts to understand their full-grown, ever orbiting children—and, of course, each other. Judy is a needling, crossword-puzzle-obsessed mother who once returned a dog for defecating indoors, and Allen is an unfaithful curmudgeon who always has a mournful straw dangling from his lips (filling the cigarette void) and consumes miles of medication to maintain his zombie-like state of equipoise. Although full of brilliant exchanges (and it never gets old to see the father’s role in the family: he’s more or less a sturdy post from which the females swing about), the banter often edges on cacophony. Whether you find the film gallant or gratuitous (see geriatric oral-sex scene), it’s an unapologetic celebration of life post-retirement—along the same varicose vein as About Schmidt. Overall, what it lacks in cohesiveness it gains in family charm only a film so adventurous could muster.

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