Film Review: ’56 Up’

Peter from “56 Up,” now in his fifties, and back in the documentary series for the first time since “28 Up." Credit: First Run Features
Peter from “56 Up,” now in his fifties, and back in the documentary series for the first time since “28 Up.”
Credit: First Run Features

It’s one of the best ideas for a movie, if not the best: The same 14-or-so Brits (and one Aussie) are visited every seven years, starting at age 7. Watched one by one — starting with 1964’s “Seven Up!” — the so-called “Up Series” can be like reconnecting with old friends. Downed in one quick block, it’s cosmic: You watch as cute kids become shy teens, angry twentysomethings, frustrated thirtysomethings, angry fortysomethings and now reasonably mellow fiftysomethings.

A fairly decent chunk of the mysteries of life can be found in these eight films, all without the filmmakers really trying. A documentarian who moonlights as a big time Hollywood director (“The World is Not Enough,” last year’s “Chasing Mavericks”), Michael Apted has been helming the series since the second film. (He was a researcher on the first.) In each installment, he asks the same basic questions: what’s new, how’s life, how’s the family (provided they exist) and so on.

“49 Up” was the film where even the more cooperative cast members — and not everyone always returns, though the gang’s nearly all here in “56” — rebelled against Apted and the reality TV-level fame foisted upon them. But 56 is a deep age and, the odd health problems aside, most of the cast are about the same as seven years prior — or failing that, at least stable. Even painfully smart Neil, who wound up homeless around “28 Up,” has eked out some form of a life, if barely.

The lack of fireworks means one’s position on the “Up” series is confirmed or challenged, or both. Are Apted’s questions lame? Should he have long ago driven it in more specific directions? Or is the staid formula — basic catch-up questions, then onto the next person — perfect, since it allows more themes and ideas to arise organically out of the narratives? Even those of us who believe the latter have to admit it could stand some tinkering — perhaps delving into, say, the class system with which the films originally began. Or perhaps our era of reality TV and viral oversharing has made the “Up” films seem too short and cursory. Not everyone in “56 Up” is interesting, and yet Apted’s style of shuffling from one person to the next, sometimes right as they’re getting interesting, can leave one hungry for more. (4 out of 5 Globes)



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Winning $7 million New York lottery ticket sold…

The only $7 million winning New York Lottery ticket for Monday's Cash4Life drawing was sold at a Queens 7-Eleven, officials said on Tuesday.

Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Movies

Review: 'Get on Up' is a war between…

James Brown finally gets his own boring biopic with "Get on Up," but the Godfather of Soul puts up a good fight against the usual cliches.

Movies

Review: 'Child of God' finds director James Franco…

James Franco's 11th directed feature is a noble but sloppy adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's "Child of God," about a feral mountain man (Scott Haze).

Movies

Review: Alex Gibney's Fela Kuti doc 'Finding Fela'…

Prolific documentarian Alex Gibney takes on Afrobeat god Fela Kuti in "Finding Fela," but fails to capture his unique essence.

Gossip

Playing the Field: Valentine's Day coupling edition

  It’s Valentine’s Day, a day created by Hallmark to make couples spend loads and loads of money on candy, flowers and gourmet dinners. Or…

College

Playing the Field: Valentine's Day coupling edition

  It’s Valentine’s Day, a day created by Hallmark to make couples spend loads and loads of money on candy, flowers and gourmet dinners. Or…

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

Career

What do you wear to a career fair?…

Getting that gig starts with presenting the most polished and memorable version of yourself, so refer to our expert fashion advice.

Style

Editors pick: Margiela's finger armor ring

These cool rings from Maison Martin Margiela are designed to overlap over the finger, covering each joint like armor.

Style

Givenchy champions diversity

Riccardo Tisci's uses a variety of ethnically diverse ladies for his spring campaign including Erykah Badu.

Wellbeing

Don't settle for the hotel fitness center with…

Travelers who want to skip the hotel fitness center in favor of local gyms that may offer better equipment, classes and amenities can turn to…