For all it’s flaws the sentimental film Love Comes Lately is a breezy jaunt about old age, repressed dreams and romance. Equal parts quirky, comedic and poignant, the film attempts, perhaps awkwardly, to bridge together the short stories “Briefcase,” “Alone,” and “Old Love,” by Noble Peace Prize writer Isaac Bashevis Singer. The biggest star of the film is Rhea Perlman who plays the girlfriend of the film’s protagonist Max Kohn. Despite being with Max for 12 years, she still manages to put up with his bumbling ways and infidelity, all while feeding him barbs and put downs. It’s Perlman doing what she does best, but it’s not exactly thespian gymnastics either. Her turn as a psychiatrist in the made-for-TV movie “Secret Cutting,” was more effective than this bit. Kohn is curmudgeonly and set in his ways and it’s cute and sweet for the first 40 minutes, but after awhile gets a bit tired.
One of the film’s more quirky and memorable turns is a hotel scene in Miami Beach in which Elizabeth Pena plays a crippled hotel employee who comes on to Kohn in a dream sequence. Though it’s presence is a bit questionable, it’s effective, humorous and well-acted. Barbara Hershey tries to turn the film around as a former college student of Kohn’s, who now relegates to smoking pot and has admitted to giving up on men. She also tries to come onto Kuhn and succeeds. The last woman who courts Kohn is Toveh Feldshuh, who has the clear standout performance, in a tragic and short-lived role. Her presence, attached to the short-story Old Love, feels tacked on and out of place in the film, and very much could have been a film of itself. That it appeared as an entire script five years prior is no coincidence.
Hailed at the Toronto International Film Festival for being “utterly enchanting,” the flick had a short release in New York, earlier this year, before fizzling and heading to DVD. And righfully so. Considering its plot structure, its themes and the cast of supporting characters, Love Comes Lately could have been great. Instead it’s a middle-ground, mild treat that’s probably best viewed as a NetFlix rental or at a discount theatre. Similar to Paul Reiser’s The Thing About My Folks, it’s a simple film that sometimes goes for giggles instead of gravity. Singer’s short stories are piercing, thought-provoking works that scintillate and sever, and this film does little of that. Otto Tausig as the main character appears in over his head. He’s great at being befuddled, geriatric and misunderstood, but he’s not good at being engaging, captivating or sympathetic. While his facial expressions and broken English are worth merit, that’s really about all there is to his performance. As much as Tausig is to blame, so too is writer/director Jan Scutte, a German, who probably could have taken his time with this piece and created something far more Oscar worthy. So it goes.