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The 2014 Miami International Film Festival kicks off with starry opening night

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The stars were out in full force Friday night as they walked the red carpet and posed for photos at the opening night of the Miami International Film Festival. The kick-off – which took place at the breathtaking Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts – was greeted with an excited energy thanks to the presence of screen legends Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer, who came for the North America premiere of their new film, “Elsa & Fred.” Also in attendance was Jared Gilman, who starred in last year’s delightful “Moonrise Kingdom,” as well as a surprise appearance from actress Anne Hathaway.

Before screening the film for the packed house, MacLaine and Plummer took to the stage with director Michael Radford (best known for directing the Italian film “Il Postino”) for a quick Q&A. “We had a wonderful time playing people who fall in love before they croak,” laughed MacLaine. In the film, she plays the spirited, somewhat manic Elsa – a woman who embraces the fun in life and has a penchant for elaborating the truth. When the newly widowed Fred moves in next door to Elsa, she quickly turns his life upside down as she teaches him that it’s never too late to live life to the fullest. Chris Noth, Marcia Gay Harden, and James Brolin round out the supporting cast.

The movie – which is a remake of the 2005 Argentine film of the same name -- is a sweet, if uninspired, diversion that is completely carried by the chemistry between its two leads. It often plays out more like a montage of the elderly couple’s little adventures than it does a fully realized story (they attempt a dine and dash, go to Italy together, etc.), but because of charming performances from Plummer and MacLaine, we come to feel like we know the two titular characters – and their eccentricities -- quite well.

There’s no room for hyperbole when talking about a movie such as this one. Rather, it inspires adjectives like “breezy” and “harmless.” It’s a simple, feel-good movie – much closer to the kind of picture they’re looking to kick the festival off with than the edgier stuff that’s sure to come later on in the week. Though far from memorable, “Elsa & Fred” is tailor-made for the older crowd, and proves that MacLaine and Plummer truly only get better with age.


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