Eight Must-See Movies for Creative Late Bloomers

Eight Must-See Movies for Creative Late Bloomers

posted in: Essays | 30

Why do so few movies feature late-blooming adults? Malcolm Gladwell, in his famous New Yorker piece on the subject, writes

Genius, in the popular conception, is inextricably tied up with precocity—doing something truly creative, we’re inclined to think, requires the freshness and exuberance and energy of youth.

The popular conception is rubbish, but Hollywood worships at the altar of youth. That’s due to change. As of the last census, almost 50% of the U.S. was over age 45 and we have more disposable income.

When the industry does make a movie that celebrates later-in-life success, it almost always does well at the box office and during award season. Everyone craves these tales.

Here are eight great late-bloomer films for your viewing pleasure:

The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014)

The Kadam family own a popular Mumbai restaurant until insurgents bomb it during a political uprising. Mama Kadam is killed and the devastated family seeks asylum in France.

They settle in a small mountain village. Papa Kadam opens another restaurant and son Hassan, a budding culinary genius, takes over the kitchen.

Unfortunately, their property (the only available) sits just one hundred feet from a famous Michelin-starred restaurant owned by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren, perfect as usual). The contest between the two is on.

What makes this an excellent late bloomer tale isn’t the romance, but Papa Kadam’s courage to start over despite tragedy, bigotry, and opposition. His passion for Indian cooking drives him and inspires his family to a better life.

Nominated: 2015 Golden Globe Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Helen Mirren.

Eight Must-See Movies for Creative Late Bloomers at LaterBloomer.com

Searching for Sugar Man (2012 Documentary)

In the late ’60s, two famous music producers discovered Rodriguez, a soulful singer of protest rock, at a Detroit bar. They had no doubt he would be the greatest recording artist of his generation.

But the albums bombed. Rodriguez returned to poverty and manual labor. One rumor said he committed suicide on stage. But somehow a bootleg recording got into South Africa and Rodriguez became the voice of the anti-apartheid movement. In South Africa, he was a star.

In the late ’90s, two South African fans set out to learn what actually happened to their hero. They found him, still living in Detroit. What follows will challenge everything you believe about failure, success, and the meaning of art.

Winner: 2013 Academy Award for Best Documentary.

Eight Must-See Movies for Creative Late Bloomers at LaterBloomer.com

Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)

Evelyn (Judi Dench), a housewife who has never worked outside the house, discovers that her recently deceased husband left her insolvent. She must sell her beloved home to pay off his debts.

Desperate for a place to live but with little money, she joins a group of British pensioners who move to a retirement hotel in Jaipur.

Stately but dilapidated, the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel doesn’t quite live up to its marketing hype. But its charming manager Sonny (Dev Patel) loves it. He owns the hotel with two successful brothers. If he can’t turn a profit, they’ll raze the historic building.

Disappointed (and in a few cases, outraged) that they’d been “had,” the group does its best to adjust to life in India. Some come to share Sonny’s dream. Others act out.

Each character’s situation presents them with the choice to bloom in their colorful surroundings or not, with both poignant and hilarious outcomes.

Nominated: 2012 Golden Globe Best Motion Picture; 2012 Screen Actors Guild Oustanding Performance by a Cast.

Eight Must-See Movies for Creative Late Bloomers at LaterBloomer.comHugo (2011)

Don’t write off Hugo as a mere children’s movie. It’s about brilliant real-life French filmmaker Georges Melies, whose silent movies resembled fevered, fantastical dreams.

Melies experienced a series of financial setbacks, then World War I broke out. He watched the French army melt down his films for their celluloid, which they used in boot heels.

After the war, Pathé exercised a hostile takeover of Melies’ studio. He became a recluse and reluctant toymaker. That’s where fictional orphan Hugo Cabret steps in. This film’s ending will convince you to never let early dreams die.

Winner: 2012 AFI Movie of the Year.

Eight Must-See Movies for Creative Late Bloomers at LaterBloomer.com

Secretariat (2010)

As long as she could remember, Penny Chenery loved horses, something she inherited from her father, a thoroughbred breeder. But she did as expected for a woman of her time—marry her college sweetheart, raise four children, run a home.

When her father became ill, Penny defied those expectations and took over Meadow Stable, which had begun to falter without a director. She was 46, and no one believed in her.

But she believed in herself and her horses, even after her father died and family urged her to sell out. She oversaw the breeding of a gorgeous red pony named Secretariat, now considered one of the greatest thoroughbreds of all time.

The real Penny Chenery was born in 1922 and is still going strong. She makes a cameo as a spectator at the Belmont Stakes—a witness to her own stubborn success.

Eight Must-See Movies for Creative Late Bloomers at LaterBloomer.com

The King’s Speech (2010)

The King’s Speech swept the 2011 award season. Despite its royal subject, we can relate to the stuttering man who, at age 41, triumphed over that obstacle and stepped into his destiny.

And screenwriter David Seidler, at age 74, accepted the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay with the quip, “My father always said to me I’d be a late bloomer.” Find out why here.

Winner: 2011 Academy Award for Best Motion Picture and Best Original Screenplay.

Eight Must-See Movies for Creative Late Bloomers at LaterBloomer.com

Julie and Julia (2009)

How can you not love Julia Child? She was over 6′ of bonhomie, in love with food and with life. And she found it all at age 36 with her first meal in France. (I write more about her here.)

The movie follows Julia’s years in early-1950s Paris, based on her memoir. Meryl Streep plays her with affection and exuberance. Julie and Julia will fill you with passion for your own odyssey (and make you want to eat sinfully rich meals).

Nominated: Meryl Streep, 2010 Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role.

Eight Must-See Movies for Creative Late Bloomers at LaterBloomer.com

American Splendor (2003)

Harvey Pekar is both a graphic novel hero and a real person. He worked as a file clerk for Cleveland’s Veteran’s Administration Hospital his whole life.

But Harvey filled his personal life with a passion for jazz and underground comics, which his friend Robert Crumb (creator of Fritz the Cat) shared. He loved the idea of creating an “everyman” autobiographical comic book.

At age 37, after ten years thinking about it, Harvey wrote the first American Splendor installment, which Crumb illustrated. The film adaptation features Paul Giamatti as Harvey. It’s hilarious and poignant, better than Woody Allen.

Harvey died in 2010. His New York Times obit noted that he

…toiled for nearly 40 years as a file clerk in a Veterans Administration hospital, applied the brutally frank autobiographical style of Henry Miller to the comic-book format, creating a distinctive series of dispatches from an all-too-ordinary life.

Ordinary, no. He made his life his art.

Winner: 2004 AFI Movie of the Year.

Eight Must-See Movies for Creative Late Bloomers at LaterBloomer.com

From a housewife to a file clerk to a reluctant king, with a few unique paths in between, these movies feature late bloomers who defied expectations, overcame obstacles, and found passion.

Do you have a favorite among them? Did I miss one? I’d love to find some more late-bloomer movies!

30 Responses

  1. Cathy | Treatment Talk
    | Reply

    Great movies here, Debra. I’ve seen some of them, but will definitely go back and catch the rest. Thanks for sharing. I’ll save this.

    • Debra Eve
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      Thanks, Cathy! Hope you enjoy them. My husband and I rewatched American Splendor last night. It doesn’t seem as ground-breaking now, but still holds up.

  2. Ellen M. Gregg
    | Reply

    I’ve not seen Hugo or American Splendor, and will now make a point of it.

    Julie & Julia is my second-favorite late-bloomer movie. My all-time favorite is the 1980s film American Dreamer starring JoBeth Williams as a then-typical American housewife who dreams of becoming a writer. She enters a contest involving a very popular mystery writer, in the face of being taken for granted by her family, and the mayhem (along with the awakening to her full potential) begins. Fun! 🙂

    • Debra Eve
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      I remember hearing about American Dreamer, but have not seen it. The 1980s was one of those lean decades when I didn’t go out much 🙂 Just checked — it’s not available for streaming on Netflix, but Amazon has the DVD for cheap. I’m buying it! Thanks for that suggestion, Ellen.

  3. Darlene Foster
    | Reply

    Some great movies listed here. I haven’t seen Searching for Sugerman yet but it is on my list.

    • Debra Eve
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      If I were to name a favorite at the moment, Darlene, that would be it. It’s one of those “you can’t make this stuff up” stories. It starts slow, but the ending is well worth it. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Lee Jenna Tyler
    | Reply

    Hey Debra,

    Love the new look ;)! I adore The King’s Speech. But I am sadly behind in my movie watching (too many books to read-and write!). But when I get away for entertainment, I’ve got the others on the top of my list. Thank you so much for the recommendations and I will write again if I think of another.
    My best,
    Lee

    • Debra Eve
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      You’re welcome, Lee! I know what you mean about movies and books and writing. I fantasize about about have a block of uninterrupted time to curl up with good book these days, and don’t want that to go by the wayside.

  5. Karen McFarland
    | Reply

    Debra, for fear of being predictable, I have to choose Julia and Julia. My hubby and I loved that film. It was well written by the gifted, yet hilarious writer Nora Ephron. We will so miss her. And then of course add to the mix Meryl Streep and voila!

    I am so sorry about lunch on Monday Debra, but I’m still holding out for later. We’re hoping, by some miracle that it works because all of us would like to see you. But we understand. I just wanted you to know how much you’ll be missed, okay? 🙂

    • Debra Eve
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      Thanks, Karen. It’s funny that no one really remembers or comments on the “Julie” portion of Julie & Julia. Nora Ephron’s idea to combine too separate books into one film was genius, but I kind of wish she’d just done a Julia biopic! Just left a message about lunch — sorry I won’t be able to make it 🙁

  6. florence fois
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    Thanks for another great post, Debra. I have seen some of these great flicks, adored Julie&Julia and the King’s Speech. I missed American Splendor, but will find it in Netflicks. Considering the staggering numbers of boomers out here, isn’t it odd that so few TV and movies feature what is truly for “mature” audiences 🙂

    • Debra Eve
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      I think that’s starting to change. I shortlisted The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but realized it wasn’t exactly about late bloomers. And as Anne mentioned in the last post, we’ve got a Boomer Lit group on Facebook. It’s only a matter of time!

  7. K.B. Owen
    | Reply

    Debra, I love these suggestions and your synopses! What a great idea for a grouping.

    ~Kathy

    • Debra Eve
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      Thanks, Kathy. Hopefully we’ll be seeing more movies like this in the future!

  8. Kassandra Lamb
    | Reply

    Great movies! I’ve added several to my must see list. My brother believes Secretariat was one of the best movies of all time, and sadly I haven’t seen it yet. Even though I’m a lover of both horses and stubborn women who won’t let others’ lack of support stop them.

    • Debra Eve
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      I have to agree with your brother, Kassandra. I don’t think Secretariat got the recognition it deserved (it’s the only one of my six that wasn’t nominated for a major award) and Diane Lane is one of my favorite actresses. Treat yourself sometime 🙂

  9. khaula mazhar
    | Reply

    Have some movies to go watch! I always feel better after reading your posts 🙂 Keep inspiring us.

    • Debra Eve
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      Thanks, Khaula. You’ll enjoy the movies!

  10. Kate Macnicol
    | Reply

    I’ve been wanting to see Sugarman! Now I really want to see it:) I’ve never seen American Splendor and don’t remember hearing about it at all. I’m intrigued! Thanks. Love what you’ve done with your blog too, it’s just looks so happy:)

    • Debra Eve
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      Thanks, Kate… that’s exactly what I was going for, a happy blog! Sugar Man is just astonishing it. I will go back to it again and again when I’m feeling down.

  11. Daniela
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    American Splendor! A delightful, snarky movie that I thought only I was weird enough to love! Wrong. Again. 🙂 I haven’t seen Hugo, but have “read” the book written and breathtakingly illustrated by Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. I say “read” because the book is more illustration than words. Illustrations so glorious, they transcend language. Thanks for another great post!

    • Debra Eve
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      You’re welcome, Daniela. American Splendor, you love it or you hate it, but I had to include it here because he was audacious enough to see his life as a comic book. Now I’ve got to get the The Invention of Hugo Cabret!

  12. Carey
    | Reply

    “On a Clear Day” is a fabulous story about a late bloomer, a man who struggles with his “forced retirement” and an old heartache. He takes on a bold, new goal, which heals his heart and gives him a new way of seeing the world. It’s a British film, witty and endearingly warm. If you haven’t seen it already, you should definitely check it out.

    • Debra Eve
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      I’ve not heard of it, Carey. Thanks so much for the recommendation! I just checked — it’s available on Amazon.

  13. libby esther berman
    | Reply

    Debra,I am turning 60! this month. I am not unhappy about the age,per se,as much as I am worried, because my mother died at 65. Thanks always for a great read.

    • Debra Eve | @DebraEve
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      Hi Libby, genetics certainly aren’t destiny these days! We’re different from our parents. Thanks so much for taking the time to read. Hopefully we’ll both be at this 10 years from now and later!

  14. Julia
    | Reply

    Wonderful list. I would add “Youth” with Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel. Edgy, puzzling, gorgeous. A widowed, retired composer is asked to perform for Queen Elizabeth, and says no—but so much more.

    • Debra Eve | @DebraEve
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      I’ll have to check that one out, Julia. Thanks for the recommendation and thanks for stopping by!

  15. Lindsay Edmunds
    | Reply

    Love these movie recommendations. I’ve seen some, haven’t seen others. Now I want to see ALL of them.

    My recommendation: THE HORSE’S MOUTH with Alec Guinness. This movie is English, from the 1950s I think. Central character, Gulley Jimson, is in his 60s and is a scruffy, hardscrabble painter in London. He lives by his own lights, even though that means having little money and no fixed address. He’s a con artist, too, when it serves his purpose.
    The book, by Joyce Cary, is good, too.

    • Debra Eve | @DebraEve
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      Hi Lindsay, you know the best classic films! Just checked it out…it’s streaming on Amazon. Will definitely give it a go. Thanks, as always, for reading!

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