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USD $1 ₱ 56.50 0.0000 April 12, 2024
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Nonsense Reigns in ‘Wild Oats’

The film relies heavily on contrivance to make its plot work, the characters rarely making decisions that would help them identify with the rest of the human race.

Wild Oats opens on Eva (Shirley Maclaine) at the funeral of her husband, and contemplating her new life as a widow. A clerical error results in her husband's life insurance policy paying out five million dollars instead of just fifty thousand. Eva, along with her best friend Maddie (Jessica Lange), decides to take advantage of the error. The two fly out to the Canary Islands, and splurge on luxury like they never have before. They spend money like there's no tomorrow, largely unaware of the people coming after them for the money.

The plot is pretty loose. Drop in at random points in this movie, and it might be a little difficult to understand how some of these scenes are connected. The film relies heavily on contrivance to make its plot work, the characters rarely making decisions that would help them identify with the rest of the human race. It seems to decide right from the start that this world is full of imbeciles, and that informs how the rest of the movie plays out.

What at first seems to just be the story of two old ladies broadening their horizons becomes something much stranger. The film makes hay out of how Eva has barely ever gone anywhere, and sets her up for a life-affirming adventure in an exotic locale. The film carries on in this way for a little bit, before shifting wildly in tone as it makes a revelation about the gentleman that's been courting her affections. The film then takes this character into scenes that feel like they belong to other movies. A whole bunch of other characters are introduced, each of them bearing their own little narrative hooks.

This isn't even taking into account the other plotlines in this movie. There's Maddie, who is counting the days to her inevitable demise, who makes a connection with a much younger man. And then there's the claims investigator played by Judd Hirsch, who's got his own set of issues. He inexplicably drags along Eva's daughter (Demi Moore) on his investigation, giving this side plot even more stuff to deal with. With the film juggling so many incompatible concerns, there isn't much room to actually resolve anything in a satisfying way. Everything just kind of ends, the movie never bothering to do the work to earn those changes.

The film mostly coasts on the formed charm and talent of an overqualified cast. Shirley Maclaine is still one of the greatest, and though this film doesn't offer much opportunity to show off her legendary fire, she's still a treat. Jessica Lange is much more interesting as an antagonist than an empty best friend character, but she still manages to make a lot of these scenes work. Billy Connolly and Judd Hirsch play two very different kinds of old men, and they're both quite charming. Demi Moore is bizarrely miscast as the severely boring daughter. She's got more going on than this film can offer her.


Wild Oats is a strange beast. It's all over the place in tone and plot. There are funny moments here and there, but none of it adds up to a greater whole. It takes storytelling as a whole for granted. At the very end of this film, Eva is shown to be in a relationship with another one of the characters. The two barely interact prior to this revelation, and there isn't really much between them in the few scenes that they do. But the film just throws them together, likely because it can't imagine an ending that doesn't involve the easy markers for happiness that come with some sort of romance. The film just isn't working hard enough to make its pieces fit together. It just stuffs everything in one bag and hopes for the best. And that’s no good.

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Wild Oats
Action, Adventure, Comedy
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