Full disclosure, I’ve always loved the so-called “Geezer” comedies. I was the only elementary school student I knew who not only saw but also loved, Grumpy Old Men. These movies made yours truly a classic film fan in reverse. It was so cool when I stumbled on the older actors I knew as much younger performers. It was like discovering something.
Back in those days, my “discoveries” were usually men. Women typically only came into the picture as love interests. So, I was ecstatic when I heard about 80 for Brady and its quirky story. Not only did the movie sound fun, but it allowed women to not only take centerstage but also openly thirst over Tom Brady. Would the movie live up to my glee? Or would it feel a lot like Brady’s 2023 playoff hopes? Read on!
80 For Brady tells the true story of four elderly friends, who also happen to be Patriots fans. They decide the time has finally come. They need to go to the Super Bowl. If they don’t do it now, they never will. During their girl’s trip, they face questions of life, love, mortality, and hot wings all in pursuit of the almighty Tom Brady. Jane Fonda, Sally Field, Lily Tomlin, Rita Moreno, and Harry Hamlin co-star in the movie. Kyle Marvin directs 80 For Brady from a script by Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins.
Full disclosure… I am not a Patriots fan and am not from New England. Now with that, let’s get to the review.
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80 For Brady is a sweet and delightful breath of fresh air. These actresses wouldn’t have it any other way. As mentioned, with few exceptions (like 2018’s Book Club), many of the “Geezer” comedies have largely focused on men and male friendships. Grumpy Old Men, Out to Sea, My Fellow Americans… Jack Lemmon crafted an entire career third act in the 1990s thanks to these movies and they are all a joy. However, women often have little to do in many of these films.
Meanwhile, in their 80 for Brady script, Haskins and Halpern craft a story spotlighting four women who are not only friends but are also over the Hollywood-friendly age of thirty-five. They’re eighty… except Sally Field, as her character continually reminds us. She’s seventy-five, darn it. Rita Moreno however recently turned 92 and barely feels a day over 60. I stan.
These women are living their best lives and are fully functional. This is despite what Hollywood ageism tells us old age is like. They’re having fun in their friendship. They lean on each other and need each other in their lives. Even more impressive, however, the movie accepts that thirst doesn’t stop in middle age. Each woman is allowed to be, and is accepted, as a sexual being.
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Sexuality in women over middle age is a tricky topic in Tinsel Town. The Golden Girls were occasionally allowed to show this side of their personality, but even then it was super rare. Plus, even at their oldest, the Golden Girls actresses were only 70 when the show ended in 1992. Women then (and largely still) are expected to grow old with grace and retreat into a life of quiet domesticity. When has Jane Fonda ever been interested in quiet domesticity?
It was the simple fact that 80 for Brady allows these women to show not only sexuality but pure and unadulterated thirst, that was a welcomed revelation. This is seen throughout the film in various forms. Trish (Fonda) writes erotic Rob Gronkowski fanfiction before hooking up with a handsome former quarterback (Hamlin) in a broom closet. Meanwhile, Maura (Moreno) lives her best life stealing life-size cutouts of attractive Patriots players while each of the women shows no shame in their attraction to number 12 himself. They are fun and relatable, and these performances are pitch-perfect.
Culturally, for those who (perhaps!) aren’t Patriots fans, the movie comes at an interesting time. It should come as no surprise that for “Pats Nation”, the movie serves as a love letter to the team’s glory days. Tom Brady appears in a number of scenes. While the legendary quarterback is not really an actor (and it shows a bit), his charisma is unmistakable. Fellow Patriots legends Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola also appear in the movie. “Gronk” is delightfully memorable.
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At the same time though, 80 for Brady hits theaters at a challenging time for the football icon. Brady is now with a different team and his struggle to continue his winning ways hang over the film for anyone who follows football. Tom Brady isn’t a regional sports figure, his reputation radiates beyond any single team he plays for.
Even those who aren’t Brady fans are likely familiar with the course of his career. I am not a big football fan and even I was aware of the “Brady” baggage extending beyond his legendary play. A speech he gives about never retiring hits a little differently now. Before this year, it might have felt smooth or even inspiring but now it plays like a joke. The snickers in the theater show that. Even the very glimmer of this era in Patriots’ history feels a little weaker. 80 for Brady may be set only five years in the past, but it ends up feeling like a dated period piece.
Ultimately though, 80 for Brady is strongest as a fluffy bit of buddy comedy fun. The joy here is watching this legendary group of actresses having fun together. (The rest of this paragraph contains a minor, minor spoiler that isn’t part of the bigger plot). The film briefly drops into more serious territory as a character contemplates mortality in the face of a potential cancer recurrence, but this really is a very minor plot point. Ultimately, the way it’s handled feels superficial and feels included merely to pull emotion from the audience. To be brutally honest, it’s not needed and bit manipulative.
Truthfully, the bond these women share is at the heart of 80 for Brady. These are four dynamic characters brought to life by four acting titans. If any film should be able to pull back and let its performers work, it’s this one. There’s an easy comfort between the actresses. There is certainly a bittersweet twinge in the acceptance of morality in these movies. At the same time though, these women are lively, vivacious, and strong. Age may be a number we have to contend with, but we don’t have to let ourselves be defined by it.
80 for Brady opens in theaters around the country Friday, February 3, 2023.
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