Film Review: The Golden Boys

Picturesque if plodding indie romantic comedy about three salty dogs in 1905 Cape Cod who bring in a would-be bride to keep house.

David Carradine and Charles Durning steal the spotlight with a quietly powerful and a loudly powerful performance, respectively, in this Massachusetts-made independent film shot under the working title Chatham. They're not enough to make the period romantic comedy The Golden Boys breezy or engrossing, but they give this low-key, grownup effort some interesting moments. Whether those moments add up to make a movie depends on one's tolerance for a trio of old salty dogs spouting things like "Tarnation" and "Landssakes."

In Cape Cod, Massachusetts in 1905, retired sea captains Zeb Hedge (Carradine), Jerry Burgess (Rip Torn) and Perez Ryder (Bruce Dern) are finding that their plan to share a nice house and modest means is running into the snag that, whether 1905 or 2005, guys are slobs. With all the characterization and depth of sketch-comedy players, they quickly decide that one of them must find a wife, get married, and take the other two in as borders. Using the period equivalent of Craigslist—a newspaper catering to lonely-hearts ads—they get sensible widow Martha Snow (Mariel Hemingway) to give them a try. Sub-Neil-Simon wackiness ensues, at a pace that's not exactly a nor'easter of comedy or romance.

A subplot with little suspense has an anti-alcohol firebrand (Durning) getting medieval on the tavern of the local rum merchant (John Savage). This seems odd, given that rum was a necessary provision on most ships, serving as both a sanitary drink and an analgesic for sore seaman, but writer-director Daniel Adams' story was "inspired by" a novel by an actual old sea captain of the era, the popular writer Joseph C. Lincoln.

Cape Cod resident Julie Harris has a dialogue-free role playing the melodeon in one scene, which is enough to net her a "special appearance by" credit.