As Assisted Living opens, it looks as though Christopher Guest (Best in Show, A Mighty Wind) has chosen a nursing home as the stage for his latest pseudo–documentary spoof. Sprawling green lawns and hallways of industrial ceramic tile and fluorescent lights are interwoven with interviews with staff earnestly explaining their perspectives on care for the elderly.
But this is no Guest mock–umentary. The absurd elements of this movie aren't played for laughs, they're played for reflection.
Written, directed and filmed by 22–year–old Elliot Greenebaum (he's 25 now), the idea for Assisted Living started out as experimental documentary. And while it was indeed filmed in a working nursing home in Kentucky with actual residents populating most scenes, Greenebaum opted to employ a few actors and incorporate a plot—kinda.
At the center of the action—and I use that term very loosely—is Todd (Michael Bonsignore), a slacker pot–smoking janitor who spends his days riding the hallways in a wheelchair and playing practical jokes on the residents. He calls residents pretending to be dead relatives to give them reports about heaven. It might sound mean, but it comes across as benign and even kind, an attempt to soothe fears about death. By the way, according to Todd, there will be sex in heaven, all the sex you want, "but without, you know, the inconvenience of bodies." Just in case you were wondering.
Ostensibly, Todd smokes pot to ward off the looming specter of death that hangs over the nursing home, Meadow View, but because we don't see him anyplace but at work, the audience has no idea of what really motivates him. It's not until we meet Mrs. Pearlman (Maggie Riley, a one–time circus ...1
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