Miami International Film Festival: Day One

Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer

The stars were out in full force Friday night as they walked the red carpet and posed for photos at the opening night of the Miami International Film Festival. The kick-off – which took place at the breathtaking Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts – was greeted with an excited energy thanks to the presence of screen legends Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer, who came for the North America premiere of their new film, “Elsa & Fred.” Also in attendance was Jared Gilman (who starred in last year’s delightful “Moonrise Kingdom”), as well as a surprise appearance from Anne Hathaway.

Before showing the film, MacLaine and Plummer took to the stage with director Michael Radford (best known for directing the Italian film “Il Postino”) for a quick Q&A. “We had a wonderful time playing people who fall in love before they croaked,” laughed MacLaine. In the film, she plays the spirited, somewhat manic Elsa – a woman who embraces the fun in life and has a penchant for elaborating the truth. Plummer plays the much more reserved Fred. When the newly widowed Fred moves in next door to Elsa, Elsa turns his life upside down as she teaches him that it’s never too late to live life to the fullest. Chris Noth, Marcia Gay Harden, and James Brolin round out the supporting cast.

The film is a sweet, if uninspired, diversion that is completely carried by the chemistry between its two leads. It often plays out more like a montage of the elderly couple’s little adventures than it does a fully realized story (they attempt a dine and dash, go to Italy together, etc.), but thanks to Plummer and MacLaine, we come to feel like we know the two titular characters – and their eccentricities — quite well.

A remake of the 2005 Argentine film, Radford said they were some key character changes that needed to be made first.

“[Christopher Plummer] thought…much like I did…that the character of Fred was not as good or as interesting as the character of Elsa in the original picture,” said Radford. “And so his one demand was that Fred should be a more interesting character. And as that was the absolute thing that I was doing anyway, it was very easy to persuade him on what we were doing.”

And he certainly succeeded on that front. While not a particularly memorable picture, “Elsa & Fred” is sure to be a hit with the older crowd, and proves that MacLaine and Plummer truly only get better with age.