There are way worse ages to be than 46.
That said, middle age has its unique emotional challenges, especially for someone who’s still in a reasonably good state of fitness and health.
At some point, you have to ask yourself the questions: when do you stop having fun? When do you stop going out late?
When you want to go out, it becomes harder to find people your age to join you. When you are dancing, there’s a whisper in the back of your mind that you don’t belong there anymore.
However, if you act your age and stop partying, that is the end. You will never be this young or have this chance again. Ever.
I understand that these are First World problems. But they are real. And the magnificent drama “Dodsworth” explores the challenges of middle age with empathy and insight.
Sam Dodsworth (Walter Huston) has just sold his factory and is retiring rich. To begin their new life with a bang, he and his wife Fran (Ruth Chatterton) head off on a long European vacation.
From the very start, Dodsworth and Fran have different retirement plans. Dodsworth goes sightseeing every morning, which is reasonably entertaining but not as meaningful as his old job.
Fran wants to go out every night, socializing and dancing – flirting and getting attention.
And she is darn good at it. Fran has a fantastic time! Director William Wyler isn’t saying that partying past your prime is bad.
Fran orders Dodsworth not to tell anyone that they are grandparents. On Fran’s birthday, she states that she is 35. The only reason we know she is lying is because of Ruth Chatterton’s extraordinary performance.
In the wrong hands, Fran would be a pathetic joke. Ruth Chatterton makes her believable and cool. First off, she has the right look for the part. Chatterton was clearly in her 40s and she was also genuinely in fine shape and good-looking enough to be alluring to younger men.
If she had been satisfied with going out at night and coming home to her husband in the morning – tired and content – Fran could have been blissfully happy. It’s fun to go out and flout Father Time for one night.
Sadly, Fran does the opposite. She’s having so much fun that her middle-age married existence seems too tedious to cope with anymore. She decides to make her life a full-time dance party with younger people.
What a home-wrecking villainess, right? Not in my eyes. Ruth Chatterton explores the character’s insecurity and vulnerability. Fran doesn’t see the disappointment and humiliation that is just around the corner.
“Dodsworth” is an elegantly simple but emotionally effective film about the challenges of middle age. It doesn’t offer any easy answers. No one can tell you when you have to give in and stop having fun. I, for one, am going out dancing after work tonight. And I don’t care what anybody thinks about it.