They call him Duke. But in his geriatric corner of Palm Springs, he might as well be king.
As general manager of the well-to-do retirement community of Villa Capri, Duke is indeed the monarch of the mature, the overlord of the elderly, the sultan of the silver-haired. He rules his domain with a velvet, alcohol-stained hand, providing his subjects with a pleasure-island-like playground in the middle of the desert.
He, like all kings, enjoys a few perks: his own special parking spot; access to the community's "petty cash" reserve for his own petty uses; the fawning affection of many a seductive senior. He has his own clutch of hangers-on, too, who praise his every word and gesture.
Oh, yes. Duke knows it is indeed good to be the king. At least, that is, until someone else wants the throne.
New guy Leo has just taken up residence in the residence, flinging cash around like so much confetti. He's a better golfer and gambler than Duke, and he's lured the eyes of the resident ladyfolk, too. Duke doesn't like what he sees in the new guy, though, and Villa Capri ain't big enough for the two of them. Duke's gonna get that upstart hombre out of the pool even if he has to drain the thing.
But maybe he won't be able to drain it much longer—not if the beautiful, businesslike Suzie Quinn has her way. She, too, sidled into Villa Capri. But she's not here to take in the sights. She's got a job to do: firing the villa's lazy, shiftless, free-spending, good-for-nothing manager.
A rival to his status. A threat to his livelihood. Yes, Duke's reign has seen better days. But he's weathered worse. Why, back in earlier days, Duke faced down the Mob, by gum. Well, at least from the comfort of a witness stand. He sent plenty of wiseguys to the big house and earned himself a one-way ticket into the witness protection program. Why, that's how he came to Villa Capri in the first place. His real name's not Duke at all, but—
Well, never you mind about that. Point is, Duke's been in worse scrapes than this. If he can stand up to organized crime, he can stand up to Leo, to Suzie, to anyone. He's the king 'round here, and no one's going to knock him off his throne without a good chunk of dynamite.
Oh, hey, is that an explosion I hear?
I'm not quite sure if I've seen a wretched hive of scum and villainy quite like Villa Capri this side of Mos Eisley, so positivity in a Plugged In sense (or, with this movie, in any sense) is pretty hard to come by.
Still, I guess we can be happy that Duke did send a few bad folks to prison, right? He helps a little old lady (given the setting, a littler, older lady?) across the street, and he donates a bit o' money to a (presumably) worthwhile cause. Also, while Duke and Leo have their differences, Leo does make some half-hearted efforts to keep him alive. So that's nice.
It's Christmastime in Villa Capri (yay!), and Duke gets real camels to augment the Villa's gigantic plastic nativity set—paying for them, naturally, out of petty cash. "Wise men come from the East," he explains. "Got to give them respect." Don't quite know what that means, but there you go. We also hear several religious Christmas carols, from "Silent Night" to "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." During a Christmas party, Duke (dressed as St. Nick) calls a rival Santa Claus a "heathen."
Duke waxes philosophical about human flaws, discussing how the builders of Europe's great cathedrals often purposefully put flaws in the stones they used, emphasizing that only Jesus is perfect. When Duke tells Leo that he built Villa Capri on "sex, booze and golf," Leo quips that heaven will come as a disappointment to Duke.
Seniors take tai chi classes. Duke keeps a Buddha head statue in his office.
Duke has what one of his cronies calls an informal "harem." One night, he brings one such harem-ite back to his pad, not realizing that another has let herself in and has made herself at home in his bedroom—first on his bed, then in his bathtub. (We see her exposed shoulders and a bubble-encrusted leg.) When he leaves to get rid of the first woman (Margarite), she's unbuttoned her blouse to expose her bra and buxomness underneath. Margarite grows suspicious when Duke tries to usher her out of his place, asking him point-blank whether he has another woman in his bedroom. He admits that he does. She sighs. "I know I'm not your one and only," she says, deciding demurely to leave.
The woman in the bath (Roberta) and other Villa Capri vixens take a shine to Leo, too. Three women converge on Leo's new residence in an apparent effort to woo him: He takes them all out to dinner at once, much to Duke's chagrin. "He's got them lined up for a three-way!" he sighs. (One of his cronies points out that, technically, it'd be a four-way.)
But Leo only has eyes for Suzie, and he gushes over how beautiful and wonderful she is at the slightest provocation, acting for all the world like a very wrinkly seventh grader. Duke, meanwhile, wants to add Suzie to his harem and, in an effort to get ol' Leo's goat, makes plans to "seduce" her. At one point, he and Leo decide to compete for her affections: Not for her hand, precisely, but for the "right to court" her. (Their rivalry over her—and, particularly, Duke's bald come-ons to her—can feel pretty uncomfortable and objectifying.)
Suzie takes a tour of Villa Capri and discovers a popular class that's all about sex: "Real sex, tender sex, filthy sex," the teacher says, going on from there. Suzie's tour guide explains the classes are quite popular, adding that he found a class on group sex particularly interesting.
Leo and Duke briefly visit a strip club: We don't see any dancers, but do see a sign boasting all-nude performers. Crude references and double entendres are made regarding sexual acts and body parts. Men ogle women, and women ogle men. And if that seems like an awful lot of ogling, it is.
Duke, dressed as Santa, beans a rival Santa with a bag. That leads to a melee in which the counterfeit Santa slams into a huge Christmas tree and lies still, apparently knocked out.
Duke finds a rattlesnake in his golf bag. (Duke tries to shoot it several times, but misses each time.) A golf cart blows up, as does a rental van. Someone is shot twice. A tiny dog is snatched by a coyote: Someone fires at the coyote, which then drops the dog, still alive but a bit hurt. (The dog returns wearing the infamous cone of shame.)
Crude or Profane Language
One f-word, about 30 s-words and several other profanities, including "a--," "b--ch," "d--n," "h---" and "p-ss." God's name is misused about 15 times, thrice with the word "d--n." We hear a reference to a "t-tty bar."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Duke and Leo drink at a bar. Duke, who seems slightly inebriated, decides to make a move on Suzie (who's sitting at the other end of the bar) and sidles up beside her. Oddly, Duke seems to get significantly more drunk in the next 90 seconds despite not drinking at all, forcing Leo to escort his frienemy out.
Characters consume wine, champagne, brandy and whiskey, sometimes to excess. Duke offers Suzie wine during a serious meeting. Someone audibly longs for a cocktail. One person smokes a cigarette.
Other Negative Elements
Duke invites Leo to a private, cash-only poker game, where Leo wins a big hand. They bet on a golf game, too, and Duke's pals shamelessly help him cheat. (They don't help him cheat very well, though, considering Leo's ahead at the final hole.)
The wife of an incarcerated Mob boss laments the fact that Duke is having the time of his life in Palm Springs while her husband is "drinking toilet water in Supermax."
Just Getting Started? I couldn't wait for it to end.
I like Morgan Freeman. I like Tommy Lee Jones. I like Rene Russo. You wouldn't think that a movie starring all three of them would be so horrifically, awfully, painfully dislikable. Given a choice between sitting through this movie again and having my foot run over by a delivery van, I'd put my foot in the road and signal for the guy to back 'er up.
The movie isn't funny (even the folks in the theater with me barely mustered a chuckle). It's kinda dumb. It does, in fact, sprint well past dumb into the realm of incomprehensibility at several junctures.
Take, for instance, when Suzie approaches Leo and says, "You paint?" Leo could respond in a variety of ways. "Why yes, I do," he could say. Or, "No, not really, though I clearly am painting right now." Or even, "Not anymore! You've totally ruined it!" All of these seem to be grounded in some semblance of reality. But when Leo turns to Suzie and says, "I'm trying to get in touch with my feminine side," it left me … confused.
Not only does this movie laconically exist outside the realm of any known reality—a movie that makes the logic of Thor: Ragnarok look as grounded as an afternoon of jury duty—it lacks even a hint of ethical grounding. Duke's Villa Capri not only revels in its "sex, booze and golf" as Duke says (and golf, the way Duke plays it, is indeed morally reprehensible), but Duke himself scams the system, makes uncomfortable passes at the ladies and bathes in his own self-perceived greatness.
And while that's part of the joke (such as it is), I don't think the movie does itself any favors to not only point and laugh, but to eventually embrace Duke's sleazy charms or his liberal use of the Villa's petty cash fund for custom-made golf clubs. Take Duke out of his comedic, fictional conceit, and the guy'd be thrown out on his ear and perhaps sued for sexual harassment quicker than you could say "live nativity camels."
Just Getting Started was a miserable experience for me. While the film was designed, I suppose, to show seniors living life to its fullest, life's far too short, in my opinion, to waste two hours of it on this.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Morgan Freeman as Duke; Rene Russo as Suzie; Tommy Lee Jones as Leo; Joe Pantoliano as Joey; Glenne Headly as Margarite; Sheryl Lee Ralph as Roberta
Ron Shelton ( )
December 8, 2017
February 27, 2018