Tommy Lee Jones and Morgan Freeman seem like good guys, right? At least to the extent that any men in Hollywood whom you don’t know personally can currently be said to be good in some realistic capacity? I’m inclined to give them both a pass in most cases and just decide they can kind of do whatever they want. They’ve both given me enough great performances that I can forgive a lot these days. So my question for director Ron Shelton is this: Why waste them?
Just Getting Started is a pointless movie. Late in the film, a character states, “Christmases tend to blur together. But this one stands out!” It doesn’t. Not even a little bit. Over the course of its mercilessly long ninety minutes, I stared in disbelief at the sheer confidence of Shelton to go along with the plan to release this film right now. Not only are we mere hours away from the opening of The Last Jedi, but in the midst of a release slate that’s given us some of the best new features of the year in the span of a few short weeks — and with Paul Thomas Anderson and Guillermo del Toro still on deck. So what exactly is to be gained by dropping this bomb on our heads right when everyone is fully focused on every movie but this one? The answer is actually pretty simple. It’s called runoff.
By its second week of release, there will be audiences stretching out the doors of theaters everywhere, and while a lot of those people will have bought advance tickets to Star Wars or Ferdinand (I guess?), an even greater number won’t do that. So they’ll show up and get turned away from the movie they’re trying to see and have to sit and watch something, right? And they won’t be too picky at that point. They won’t mind that Rene Russo’s Suzie, a corporate auditor, has a completely artificial character and arc, just randomly reacting to everything put in front of her. They won’t care that Leo, Jones’ phlegmy Texan dinosaur, knows all the great poets and all the latest apps but doesn’t know how to properly hold the gun he apparently keeps on him at all times. And it won’t matter that Duke, the womanizing mob lawyer in witness protection played by Freeman, jumps from one high-profile gig to another despite the entire movie being a lesson that this is probably a very bad idea in the long run. Because this film is the very definition of a “diversion,” nothing is meant to add up or even be particularly funny. It’s just meant to pick up a few extra bucks at the box office from the folks who don’t feel like driving all the way back home again after not being able to see Three Billboards a third time.
If nothing else, Just Getting Started proves that with enough charisma and professionalism, certain actors are untouchable. Jones, Freeman, and Russo will survive this fiasco and move on to better projects. And as long as they don’t keep working for Ron Shelton, I’ll keep showing up.