56 Up

Filmmaker Michael Apted began his “Up” series back in 1963 when he and his camera followed 14 seven-year olds from all social and economic walks of life in England. Since then, the director has revisited his subjects every seven years and the latest edition to this history making film series is “56 Up.”

Laura's Review: A-

Back in 1964, Michael Apted ("Gorillas in the Mist") began his career as a researcher on an experimental British television program called "Seven UP," which was designed around the idea that our personalities are set by the age of 7. Apted and director Paul Almond interviewed fourteen children from different parts of England, some working class, others more privileged. Apted took over the series with its third 7 year check-in and has been involved throughout his entire career, even as some original subjects dropped out. Now, some have returned and developments continue to surprise in "56 Up." This series has always been intriguing, but now, after half a century, it has become astounding, a document that defies the fragility of memory. One cannot help but reflect upon one's own life, one that as a contemporary of the subjects was not archived on video, and wonder what Apted and long term editor Kim Horton ("28 Up") might have derived from it. Those decades younger than these subjects have the opposite conundrum, lives over documented because of changes in technology and the rise of social media. Almond couldn't have picked a more exciting time to kick off his project, with the last of the baby boomers about to face change paced more rapidly than at any other time in history. It's like the startling time lapse photography of "Chasing Ice" had been applied to the human race. But it's not just the novelty of skipping around someone's timeline, from fresh faced naive young schoolchild to grandparent that makes this so involving. We've watched these people voice their dreams and intentions at various ages, only to be able to see just how closely they've hewed to their original ideas. We see two children as best friends at 7 become vastly different men on opposites sides of the earth. The rate of divorce among these subjects is staggering and we must wonder if this is a reflection of their time, or, as one woman puts it, the desire for children coming at an age before one fully knows oneself? The series itself pokes its head into the spotlight more than once. One couple appears to be dating after years of being involved in the project separately. Neil, the series' most troubled subject, is frustrated that his involvement hasn't made getting what he wants in life, to be paid to be a writer, easier. Interestingly, Neil is also the series' loudest critic, objecting to the idea that he's been really represented and that its audience could have the gumption to claim to know him. There's a tremendous amount of hope here as well. Those pegged as well to do at 7 all seem to have veered into working for the public good. Sue, one of the three young women pictured above, experienced some tough times in previous episodes, going through divorce and problems raising teenaged children as a single mom, but now, she couldn't be happier, dismissing the dark years as normal growing pains. Sue even went on to prestigious career at Saint Mary's College without a college education of her own. On the other hand, those two other women in the picture had quite different experiences. Jackie has gone through a series of tragedies with breakups and deaths. She's forced with having to earn a living after her benefits were cut, but one gets the impression reading between the lines that she's taken the system for more than she's given. Lynn called her career as a youngster, but after a satisfying life's work may see her livelihood taken away by budget cuts. Three women starting at the same place, three completely different work rhythms - ambitious, diminished and steady but precarious. "56 Up" is something like an epic novel whose characters intertwine and diverge over the span of decades. But this is real life with all its everyday events and yet Apted and Horton awe us with their time lapse tapestry.

Robin's Review: B

Henry Roth (Adam Sandler) is a marine veterinarian working at an ocean park in Hawaii and has real problems making commitments to the women he dates. Lucy Whitmore (Drew Barrymore) is a pretty local who has an unusual problem – a year ago, she was in a car accident which caused her to lose short-term memory and she can’t remember anything new for more than a day. Henry, when he sees Lucy for the first time, is intrigued and may just change his ways but not before they have “50 First Dates.” Sandler and Barrymore captured our hearts in 1998 with the wonderfully warm-hearted romantic comedy, “The Wedding Singer.” Since then, the two have gone their separate ways professionally. But, their chemistry in that film made us cry out for more and they finally get together again with an original screenplay from freshman scribe George Wing. Director Peter Segal has the pleasure of bringing his stars, and their chemistry, together again and the result may well hit the ball out of the park. The film opens with a bevy of beauties exulting over the great time they had in Hawaii with charming Henry. To avoid committing to any one woman Roth makes up all manners of stories, even claiming to be a secret agent preparing for a dangerous mission. To date he has been successful in his avoidance. Then, he stops at a local breakfast eatery and spies Lucy constructing a teepee from her plate of waffles. Intrigued by the pretty food architect, he strikes up a conversation and the two get along famously. Lucy invites him to join her the next morning for breakfast. Henry leaves, happy in his anticipation of the next day. The following morning, he shows up at the restaurant and proceeds to pick up where he left off but Lucy doesn’t know who the heck he is! After Henry gets shot down, the owner of the restaurant, Sue (Amy Hill), draws him aside and, with a warning tone in her voice, explains that the young woman was in an accident that caused her daily memory loss. The prospect of a relationship that requires no commitment appeals to Henry and he decides to make a fresh play every day for Lucy’s affection. There is a price to be paid, though, and Henry finds that he is falling in love with someone who forgets who he is from one day to the next. The challenges that Henry faces is one of the many charms of “50 First Dates.” Adam Sandler is best known for his often mean-spirited and cynical characters as in “Happy Gilmore” and “Big Daddy.” He showed us a different face, and a charming one at that, in “The Wedding Singer” and proved that he could carry a romantic lead. It has been eight years since and I, for one, wanted to see Sandler revisit the romantic comedy genre. When I heard of his re-teaming with Drew Barrymore I was hopeful but skeptical – heck, I remember all too well “Little Nicky.” I need not have been worried. The chemistry between Sandler and Barrymore is just as strong and palpable as it was eight years ago. The tag line: “Imagine having to win over the girl of your dreams…every friggin’ day!” gives the feel of a typical Adam Sandler film. But, with Barrymore involved, we get a warm and funny romantic comedy that benefits from a number of things. The long awaited reuniting of the stars shows that the chemistry between them was not a one time thing and they play beautifully off of each other. George Wing’s screenplay capitalizes on the charm of the stars as, in episodic manner, Henry tries to win anew each day the heart of pretty, brain-damaged Lucy. As one expects, once Henry learns of Lucy’s condition, he becomes obsessed with the challenge of wooing the woman who, from one day to the next, cannot even remember his name. I expected the story to be simply a series of dates with Lucy being “cured” by the love of a good man. Far from it. “50 First Dates” goes beyond the basic idea and brings into play such things as Lucy’s father (Blake Clark) and brother (Sean Astin) painstakingly recreate her last day of real memory – and they do it every day. This heartfelt bit of melancholy is just one of the factors that make this a good date flick and beyond. Scripter Wing doesn’t cheap out on us, thankfully, and constructs an appealingly different kind of story. The supporting cast is solid all around. Clark and Astin are credible as father and lisping, muscle-headed, steroid-abusing brother, Doug. Amy Hill puts caring dimension into her character, Sue, as she tries to protect Lucy from emotional harm. Pomaika’i Brown, as Spam and egg slinging cook Nick, generates humor and honest affection for Lucy. Rob Schneider gets the most out of his supporting performance as Ula, Henry’s pot smoking native Hawaiian assistant who is always ready to lend his friend advice on matters of love. He has a bunch of kids with Ula being first among equals with his tots. Better still are two non-human characters, Jocko the walrus and Willie the penguin, stealing the show with their anthropomorphic hijinks. A 2000 pound walrus giving a high five is funny stuff. Techs are sound and the Hawaii locale a beautiful setting for this charmer. There is something for almost everyone in “50 First Dates” and I recommend it as a first-rate first date flick.