The film follows the lives of Frank Barcroft (Christopher Plummer) and Elsa Hayes (Shirley MacLaine). After the death of his wife, Frank’s daughter, Laura (Deanna Meske) forces Frank to move into an apartment and hires a caretaker (Erika Alexander) to maintain the apartment. Frank feels that his entire life was a waste; he had a terrible marriage, an arm injury ended his musical career, and he worked a pedestrian office job. He had largely given up on life, but that changes when he meets Elsa, his new next-door neighbor. Elsa is spunky, crass and dauntless; she is not afraid of anything, despite her advanced age.
Shirley MacLaine is the true star of this story. Her character, Elsa, is the gutsiest one in the film, and she spunkily charms her way through life. Elsa refuses to allow old age or even a disease slow her down. MacLaine is able flawlessly shift between the multiple facets of Elsa’s personality, from rapping with hip hop music while driving to somberly sitting through dialysis treatments in the hospital. Christopher Plummer does an acceptable job playing the perennially grumpy old man, but this archetypal role is so embedded in popular culture that he could play it in his sleep.
I felt that the movie was rather slow at times; there were definitely several scenes, such as a mundane walk through the park, which contain little dialogue and play no role in the plot. Still, last week I reviewed another rom-com called Laggies. After watching both, I believe that Elsa & Fred has all the emotional depth and meaning that Laggies lacked. Elsa & Fred portrays love in a special way. Both characters know that their best years, physically speaking, are long behind them. Still, both decide to make the most of their time left.