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It's All in the 'Game'

August 27, 2009 By:
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Paul Campbell and Marla Sokoloff launder their feelings about each other in a scene from the movie, opening Aug. 28.

The value of old gold is soaring; but what price golden oldies?

Priceless, says Marc Fienberg.

He should know: The film's producer/writer/director, Fienberg puts a fine point on the focus of love beyond the lust years in "Play the Game," opening on Aug. 28 at the Ritz at the Bourse.

Uh, correct that: Lust is not lost among the elderly either, avers the writer/director who based the film's key character (played by a randy Andy Griffith) on his own Grandpa Joe, a zayde whose zest for the ladies was re-acquired gingerly, tenderly after the love of his life, his wife of 56 years, passed away.

Sex and the sedentary? No fancy footwork here -- okay, the occasional orthopedic shoe -- but plenty of action, even if participants are advised to walker, not run.

It's all a slow dance: "The film is 12 years in the making," reveals Fienberg, whose own bio is short but sweet -- and award-winning.

Sex after 60 ... wait, or is that sex after "60 Minutes"? With its dual-generation bifurcated viewpoint -- the reel Grandpa Joe and his grandson, David (Paul Campbell), have different game plans to find love; ultimately, it's "Grandpa Knows Best."

There are no special effects (unless watching Griffith hoist his pants so high it threatens to cut off his Adam's apple is one), but the film does have a special appeal.

And all he's trying to show, according to Fienberg, is that, yes, seniors still got game.

"Game" got him: "I was so impressed by my grandfather and his spirit. I mean, he's your grandfather, and you'd expect that that part of his life would be over."

Over and out? Ongoing and everywhere. "But I realized the need for love and companionship really never ends. And I find that nice and touching."

There are some film touches that are treacly, trapping characters in less-than-illuminating dialogue. But it's what the movie says overall, and after all is said and done, where Fienberg finesses in his first feature film.

You don't need a final-exam blue book to understand why the film tested so well in Florida, where "it ran for three months."

Blue Hair to the Left of Him ...
But it was more than word-of-mouth that made the ladies' groups give it two pinkies up; it was a job for the ... "Yenta Brigade"!

Blue hair to the left of him, blue hair to the right ...

"It was a case of 75-year-old women pitching the movie to their friends," he says of the early-bird special brigade that bragged about it to one and all, so Miami's version of TV's "Gossip Girls" became "more powerful than Facebook and Twitter."

It's not the first such recent film to try the soft-shoe/white shoe dance among the elderly: Philadelphian Susan Seidelman had somewhat of a success four years ago with her "The Boynton Beach Bereavement Club," covering somewhat similar Florida-style surf and turf.

"Susan is a mentor to me," confesses the proud filmmaker. And her mother, he says, is part of his "Y.B." "She alone got 3,000 people into theaters for my film."

His own mother wouldn't be outdone: "She called all her Hadassah friends and put their tushes in the seats."

And what do they see? Well, the onscreen family isn't identified as Jewish but ... "when Jewish people see the movie, they say it's a Jewish movie -- although there's not a yarmulke in the film."

What there is is firsthand experience: "When I was in college, I was into 'playing the game,' " says the filmmaker. "There was one girl I dated -- and then we broke up -- and I couldn't get her out of my mind. I wanted to see her again, but she kept saying, 'No, no, no.' "

"The End" ... no, the script doesn't finish there for real or reel. They eventually got back together again, and the Player found the old board game suddenly boring, his heart giving a new spin to the rules.

Pass "go" and collect ... a life.

"We got engaged, got married, and now we have four kids," he says of the greatest endgame of all.

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