Film Review: All I Wish

Sharon Stone tries valiantly in vain to make something emotionally real of this false-ringing, awkwardly written and edited rom-com about two L.A. forty-somethings.
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Rom-coms about middle-aged couples weren't a thing in the older days—how many screwball comedies starred forty-somethings?—and they somehow still aren't. Even the seminal Oscar-winning hit Terms of Endearment (1983)—released when Jack Nicholson and Shirley MacLaine were 46 and 49, respectively—never really inspired a spate of films of romance in that range. Fifty-somethings and up, yes, with the likes of It's Complicated (2009), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011), Hope Springs (2012) and And So It Goes (2014). There have been a few, and fewer than you'd think—Billy Crystal may have been 41 when Harry met Sally in 1989, but Meg Ryan was just 27; Michael Douglas was in his 50s and Annette Bening in her 30s when The American President was elected to theatres. You find forty-something romance in drama, but rom-coms? Apparently, forty ain't funny.

That continues to be the case with All I Wish, which wishes it were. Star Sharon Stone has described it as an attempt at subverting the "Peter Pan syndrome" male of so many comedies involving grownup baby-men. That's a perfectly viable idea if you love Adam Sandler farces and want the same idea but starring a woman; decades before the term was coined, in fact, Lucille Ball's Lucy Ricardo in the classic sitcom "I Love Lucy" was the epitome of that idea, and that show was brilliant. Stone generally is brilliant as well, a true chameleon who can play glamourous but can also disappear so deeply into character roles you don't even realize at first it's her. Yet All I Wish isn't brilliant. It's awful.

Stone, around 59 when this was filmed, plays a woman who's 46 when the movie begins, with Tony Goldwyn, around 57, as her evidently age-appropriate romantic partner. Both look incredible for their ages, which is part of the problem. Whereas the likes of Nicholson and MacLaine were attractive in an ordinary, everyday way, these two are paragons. Goldwyn's Adam Price is a rich, kind, witty lawyer with abs fit enough that he appears shirtless more often than Chris Pratt in a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Likewise, Stone, while not convincingly 46, nonetheless has a jaw-dropping bikini scene that'll stir up any man's basic instinct. It's great for the sake of age diversity to have a rom-com aimed at older audiences, yet while the stars don't have to look like Ma and Pe Kettle, part of the reason older audiences may want to see a forty-something romance is the reflection of relatable people like themselves. They can see hot young stars anytime.

Stone's Senna Bergess is a would-be L.A. fashion designer who rides a motorcycle and wears ripped jeans with a Christian Dior t-shirt and, of course, hats. She smokes. She drinks too much. She's just a wild child, baby! Fired from her job as a buyer for a staid boutique for having tastes too edgy and cool—of course—she finds succor with supportive best friend Darla (the usually dead-on Liza Lapira saddled with a dull fiancée/wife/mother role). The colorless Darla gives Senna a place to stay and later a puppy, and never shows any jealousy, competitiveness or anything approaching human dimensionality. Her tangential fiancé/husband is played by Houston attorney/bodybuilder and very occasional actor Jason Gibson, who, whatever his age, is incongruously boy-toy and makes you wonder exactly how he got here.

A first feature by writer-director Susan Walter—last credited in the industry as second assistant director on TV's "Caroline in the City" in 1999, and whose bio lists a number of sold but unproduced screenplays—All I Wish is divided into six sections, each opening on Senna's birthday as we follow her from 46 to 51. Each ends with one of the characters—including one played by Caitlin FitzGerald before she's even introduced in the plot and we have any idea who she is—talking to the camera with a thought or reminiscence about love. A plot tic is Senna's mother (Ellen Burstyn) always being the first to call her to wish Senna a happy birthday.

Stone, one of the producers, is the consummate trouper and makes virtually all of her character's ridiculous dialogue believable. That's a huge feat in a movie of such artificiality and lack of genuine emotion that it digs itself deeper and deeper into the hollow of its phony feelings. Without giving away too much, it eventually celebrates, without irony, its purported romantic lead pulling off perhaps the most dickish and insensitive move of any romantic lead in the history of cinema. Anyone who thinks I'm exaggerating, e-mail me via Film Journal International and I'll tell you exactly what he does. Then tell me if I'm wrong.

Originally titled A Little Something for Your Birthday and also starring Famke Janssen, Gilles Marini and Yvonne Jung, All I Wish makes you wish you'd never wasted your time.

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