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Assisted Living

A Sweet, Funny Ode to Life

This touching as well as humorous film is equal parts comedy and drama. Shot like a docu-drama in the style of a more subdued Christopher Guest film (e.g. Best in Show) by first time writer and director Elliot Greenebaum, Assisted Living will alternately make you want to laugh and cry.

Todd (Michael Bonsignore) is a hapless but well-meaning stoner who "works" as a janitor in an assisted living nursing home (the film was shot on location at the Masonic Homes of Kentucky). He straggles in late, smokes out during the day, helps out with bingo, rubs a mop around on the floor, chills with the residents and generally slacks off. The movie is mainly focused on his relationship with Mrs. Pearlman (an excellent Maggie Riley), a resident who is slowly sinking into the early stages of Alzheimer's. During her less cognitive moments, she believes Todd is her long-lost son who lives in Australia, for whom she is waiting to come and take her away from the home.

Assisted Living drags in the middle; at times the editing is sharp, and at other times weak. However, these quiet moments on film are balanced by raucous comedy. In one scene, geriatric female inhabitants throw around a Pilates ball to loud, bass-heavy techno. In a hilarious series of scenes, Todd involves the residents in what can best be described as "phone calls from heaven". He brings them to the front desk, tells them they have a phone call, then runs into another room and picks up the line pretending to be God, or whoever else they want him to be. He gets asked a variety of questions, the funniest one of which is, "Do people have sex in heaven"? You get the feeling that Todd is actually playing this joke on the real life residents of the Masonic Homes, and can't decide if he's performing a practical joke or a public service. Besides Todd, there are a host of other characters here, including: the chaplain that does karate during sermons, the alcoholic director with family problems, and the new age social activities director.

Assisted Living tells the story of our country's elders through its beautiful, artistic direction. The script is both funny and poignant but what make the movie indelible are the shots of everyday life in the home. Not to sound too trite, but you can immediately tell that Greenebaum made this project with love.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars