A pleasant, solidly entertaining slice of family-oriented Americana, “Roommates” cooks up several decades worth of a parentless son’s relationship with his cantankerous grandfather into a low-fat, emotionally health-conscious repast.
Starring Peter Falk and D.B. Sweeney (in his best role to date) as the titular cohabitants in spirit when not in actuality, director Peter Yates’ comedy-drama should attract mature and retiring breadwinners in most markets.
The presentation is also sweetened by the presence of Julianne Moore, providing some enticement for younger adult viewers.
Written by Max Apple and Stephen Metcalfe and based on Apple’s story inspired by his relationship with his own grandfather, “Roommates” is comprised of four extended sequences beginning in 1963, with each new installment leaping 10 years forward in the lives of aging baker Rocky (Falk) and up-andcoming cardiologist/surgeon Michael (Sweeney).
The film’s structure allows several running jokes to provide comic continuity while providing Falk the opportunity to play a character that ages 34 years to become a sharp, active 107-year-old.
A Polish immigrant with a strong work ethic and traditional notions about marriage and child-raising, Rocky both instructs Michael and frustrates the young bachelor with unwanted intrusions.
The biggest life lesson and cause of sore feelings between the pair is Michael’s wooing of blue-blood, rebel social worker Beth (Moore), who comes into their lives when Michael saves the life of a homeless woman.
Beth’s snooty mother (Ellen Burstyn) is a more long-term problem, but Rocky at first acts jealous and outraged, then downright unfriendly toward the spunky-but-beguiling gal.
Thanks to tight scene construction, sparkling dialogue, Yates’ effortlessly smooth direction and Falk’s showy-but-believable performance (helped immeasurably by Greg Cannom’s excellent makeup applied by Bob Laden), “Roommates” is tasty stuff and digests easily.
The film feels longer than its 109-minute running time, and not every colorful episode hits a bull’s-eye, but “Roommates” is classy, crowd-pleasing commercial filmmaking.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with story: “Roommates” Locations: Lincoln Heights, Newport and Coeur d’Alene cinemas. Cast: Directed by Peter Yates, starring Peter Falk, D.B. Sweeney, Julianne Moore, Ellen Burstyn, Jan Rubes, Joye Reehling Running time: 109 minutes Rating: PG