2006 // Switzerland // Bettina Oberli // November 14, 2008 // Theatrical Print (Landmark Plaza Frontenac Cinema)
I'll allow that Late Bloomers manages to be "heartwarming," but only in the most calculated and undemanding way. Bettina Oberli's story of elderly women who open a lingerie shop in a tiny, conservative Swiss village wears its life-affirming, faux-rebellious intentions with pride. There's not much to object to here from a storytelling perspective: Oberli introduces four women with a panoply of personal problems, adds some obligatory crises, and by the time the credits roll all is neatly (if not happily) resolved. The villains, primarily a political leader (Manfred Liechti) and the village parson (Hanspeter Müller)—both sons of the entrepreneurial women—are so aggressively loathsome that there's no wiggle room in the story. Doubt creeps in for Oberli's silver dames when their enterprise gets rocky, but Oberli signals with simplistic strokes that unexpected thematic shifts aren't in order (just cheap tragedy). What we're left with is "Be True to Yourself" pablum, served up with rich helpings of schadenfreude and a knowing condemnation of rural Swiss stuffiness. The film's saving grace is Stephanie Glaser as ringleader Martha, a widowed hausfrau portrayed with a fine blend of tentativeness, moist romanticism, and comic spunk.