The first collaboration between Oscar winners Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones should be a union that makes audiences cheer, particularly with an experienced filmmaker like Ron Shelton at the helm. Unfortunately, “Just Getting Started” isn’t the product of the Oscar-nominated Shelton of “Bull Durham” and “Tin Cup” fame; instead, it’s a comedy from the writer-director who gave us “Hollywood Homicide.” Even a cast with this many award wins and nominations can’t salvage a script that will have viewers audibly sighing, rather than laughing.
Duke Diver (Freeman) reigns over a posh Palm Springs retirement community as its manager, but he’s also its de facto social king. However, his status is in danger when Leo (Jones) arrives and draws the attention of the female residents (Glenne Headly, in one of her last roles; Sheryl Lee Ralph; and Elizabeth Ashley) and newcomer Suzie (Rene Russo). Duke feels threatened, but it isn’t just his love life at stake: His secret past may finally be catching up with him, and corporate doesn’t agree with how he’s been running the place.
Shelton has written a film that isn’t sure what it wants to be about: the social dynamics of a retirement community, the one-upmanship of two grown men acting like children or a crime film about a man who can’t escape those who want revenge. The problem isn’t even so much that “Just Getting Started” tries to be these three things at once, but that it doesn’t do any of them well.
“Just Getting Started” lacks precision in every aspect but its on-the-nose dialogue, which defies the “show, don’t tell” rule with the type of rebellion that would make Duke proud. There’s no subtlety or room for the talented cast to add nuance to any line. People telling each other, “Shut up,” seems to account for 10% of the dialogue, but no one ever does.
‘Just Getting Started’
Rated: PG-13, for language, suggestive material and brief violence
Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes
Playing: In general release