Blythe Danner stars as Carol. She lives by herself with her faithful dog Hazel in a beautiful California home. She is independent, her husband Bill having died in a plane accident twenty years ago, and is a retired school teacher. She is attractive, well-dressed and at one time she sang in a band. She enjoys playing bridge with friends Georgina (June Squibb from Nebraska), Sally (Rhea Perlman from Cheers), and Rona (Mary Kay Place from Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman), who live in a nearby upscale senior community. The friends want her to come live in the community with them, but she enjoys her independence too much. She has a daughter Katherine (Malin Akerman) who lives in New York and describes Carol as being self-absorbed.
Carol’s life is disrupted when her dog falls ill. She then strikes up an unlikely friendship with the much younger Lloyd (Martin Starr), who cleans her pool. Lloyd has a lack of direction, having moved back to the area to live with his mom who has been having health problems.
Carol’s friends are always trying to get her matched up with a man, but she has always resisted. She does agree to attend a “Speed Dating” event at the senior community, but you’ll have to watch the movie to see how it turns out for her.
Overall, Carol feels that something is missing from her life. It is a life that John Piper would describe as a wasted life. It seems that what she most enjoys is drinking; she is rarely seen without a drink in her hands. She has no purpose. The scenes with Georgina, Sally and Rona are fun, but Carol rarely seems happy. Piper writes in Don’t Waste Your Life that “America is the first culture in jeopardy of amusing itself to death.”
This movie clearly portrays the God-shaped hole that we all have, described by Blaise Pascal in Pensées: “What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”
The notion of a God-shaped vacuum was also recognized by St. Augustine of Hippo who wrote in his Confessions:
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”
The film is described as a comedy and drama, but the emphasis is on drama. It was much heavier than we expected from the film’s description. It includes some adult language and sex outside of marriage. The acting in the film is excellent, especially the 71 year old Danner and a likeable Sam Elliot.
As the film ended Tammy looked at me and said what Carol needed was Christ. I had been thinking the same thing. Again, Piper writes: “But whatever you do, find the God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated passion of your life, and find your way to say it and live for it and die for it. And you will make a difference that lasts. You will not waste your life.”