I look at them and my heart swells. The late Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy. Fifty-two years of marriage, sparkling theatre careers (six Tonys between them), and then a shared career renaissance in the '80s with a trilogy of science-fiction films: Cocoon, Cocoon: The Return, and *batteries not included (which I viewed repeatedly when I was young -- so much that Cronyn and Tandy became like a third set of grandparents to me).
How did this trilogy even happen? Can you imagine the pitches to studios? For Cocoon: "So we got these old folks at an old folks home, and then they break into an old mansion and use the pool, and it makes 'em feel real good, and eventually they hitchhike on a flying saucer and blast off to an eternity of no-aches-and-pains." For *batteries: "So we got these old folks who are too old to run their diner, and the woman has Alzheimer's and still thinks her dead son Bobby is alive, and it looks like the end of the road until a family of robotic aliens shows up and helps them out with the cooking and the serving and their apartment building, which is about to be torn down by greedy developers."
Suffice to say: These movies would've never gotten made today.
The Cocoons are throwaways, but *batteries is priceless. Amid the sci-fi wizardry and general mayhem, Cronyn and Tandy fashion a portrait of a marriage that is both wearing thin and getting stronger because of age and affliction. It seems ridiculous to say this, but with the help of these aliens ("the little guys," as Tandy calls them), they find a way to connect through the haze of Alzheimer's. It's beautiful and moving and unexpected. Does anyone else have a special place in their hearts for *batteries not included?
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