Jane Fonda, who started off her career as a sex kitten, pops back as a septuagenarian French cougar in And If We All Lived Together?, a French dramedy about about a spritely quintet of seniors striking a blow for independence. A more efficient, and slightly more tart, version of the sentimental hit British comedy The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, this second feature from French director Stéphane Robelin mixes elements of sex farce into the more grimly predictable elements of mental and physical degeneration and the battle to evade the retirement home.
Fonda is marking her return to French cinema since Jean-Luc Godard’s 1972 film All’s Well (Tout va bien), and the years of leading the aerobics revolution 30 years ago have stood her in good stead. Less strident than in her American films of the past decade (Georgia Rule, Monster-in-Law), Fonda comes off well. Fit and youthfully dressed, she plays a retired Franco-American academic who becomes flirty pals with a young dog walker and a girl-shy anthropology student, Dirk (Goodbye Lenin’s Daniel Brühl). As the young man and older woman take pleasant strolls through a nearby cemetery, she persuades him to change his thesis topic from Australian aboriginal people to the habits of the indigenous aged, with direct access to inside information: “I frequently masturbate,” she tells him.
Earlier in the film, long-time retired friends Jeanne (Fonda), her husband, Albert (Pierre Richard), and their bachelor friend, Claude (Claude Rich), make a decision to move into the expansive home of their friends Annie (Geraldine Chaplin) and Jean (Guy Bedos). All five have known each other for 40 years or more; Jean, a one-time Sixties political firebrand, initiates the idea of using communal living as a way of caring for each other deal with their their varied health crises.
Jeanne has a life-threatening illness, which she keeps from Albert, who is in the early stages of dementia. Claude is a sweet-natured roué who employs young prostitutes, though a heart attack slows him down a little. Indeed, he is the wild card here and it’s not long before old letters are opened, secrets are revealed and the entire oldsters’ commune project is in danger.
In its second half, the movie tips into familiar Gallic farce territory before settling for a formulaic sentimental kicker. As middling comedies go, the French approach has certain virtues. If good wine and long talks with friends can’t prevent the inevitable, at least they make the waiting more tolerable.