Abe and Phil’s Last Poker Game Review

Abe and Phil’s Last Poker Game is a comedy drama about an elderly man who has moved into a new manor with his ailing wife, making friends with a womanizing gambler.

It’s natural to feel a little uncomfortable and maybe even a bit unsure how to feel when dealing with a film such as Howard Weiner‘s Abe and Phil’s Last Poker Game, a film that addresses some very real issues about aging. It’s not meant to be easy and at times works to be in your face about a future most face. While it succeeds often in being highly observant and even jarringly authentic perhaps, unafraid to offer a genuine glimpse into life behind doors at a nursing home, it ultimately stays inside the lines and delivers just what’s expected.

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Dr. Abe Mandelbaum (Martin Landau), once a successful practitioner, is forced to move into a nursing home with his failing wife Molly (Ann Marie Shea), she suffering from dementia and he losing control of his health. Abe meets and befriends Phil (Paul Sorvino), a former ladies man with his own host of physical problems, a man with a good sense of humor and a taste for cards who has no family and feels alone in a home where everyone is dying around him. Abe, while initially unhappy about the move, finds himself opening up given time away from Molly, finding himself aroused in the company of Sheryl (Pamela Dubin), a vibrant middle-aged volunteer who awakens in him some long dormant feelings, both emotional and physical. Meanwhile, a new nurse named Angela (Maria Dizzia) arrives at the manor in search of her birth father, whom she believes is one of the men in the home.

Right away, Abe and Phil’s Last Poker Game benefits from its leads, with Landau and Sorvino both fun to watch. Landau especially, who passed away last year, embraces Abe with plenty of energy, making much of his moments on screen moving, funny, and even emotional. However, the movie, which naturally isn’t really about poker but the game of life, veers away from the more obvious details of being in an old age home and more on the sexual shenanigans of the elderly guests. Phil is riddled with disease and has been unable to perform for decades, longing for his past while Abe gets his first erection in years with Sheryl. While the film plays some of this with hints of humor, admittedly, only Landau could pull off a sex scene at 88 and somehow make it watchable.

Weiner devotes a lot of time to this, and his approach is certainly honest if not a little touching. However, the movie can’t quite dig itself out from under the mounting clichés and overall soft touch, with Angela’s quest and the home’s gruff manager (Alexander Cook), hooked on a strange anti-cancer concoction, veering from the things that work best. That of course is the relationship between Abe and Phil, and it’s just too bad that the movie couldn’t have let it be them. Weiner seems unsure in trusting the whole film to this and instead swells his music and plays into emotional manipulations, with much of it ending up more akin to a predictable TV movie than anything truly affecting. It finds footing with its leads though, and just to see Landau and Sorvino together makes this worth a look.

Abe and Phil’s Last Poker Game Review

Movie description: Abe and Phil's Last Poker Game is a comedy drama about an elderly man who has moved into a new manor with his ailing wife, making friends with a womanizing gambler.

Director(s): Howard Weiner

Actor(s): Martin Landau, Paul Sorvino, Maria Dizzia

Genre: Drama, Comedy

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