Playing the title character of Rod McCall’s drama, Cybill Shepherd delivers the sort of late-career performance that would generate awards attention if it were showcased in a better film. The veteran actress mines the juicy role, a seriously ill, widowed ex-cop who undertakes a road trip to see her estranged son, for all its poignancy and humor. Unfortunately, Being Rose proves as flimsy a starring vehicle as the motorized wheelchair in which the character gets around, even if its moving depiction of late-in-life romance may prove irresistible to viewers of a certain age.
The story revolves around Rose’s decision to hit the road while waiting for medical test results that, based on her growing immobility, are not likely to be good. Although her no-nonsense steeliness is apparent from the beginning, it’s truly demonstrated when she encounters a bad guy (Mark Vasconcellos) intent on robbing her as she’s traveling down the highway in her fast-moving scooter. Whipping out her revolver, Rose shows him that she’s not an older woman to be messed with.
Not long into her journey through the Southwest where she indulges in luxurious spa sessions and frequent toking of her medical marijuana, she meets Max, played by James Brolin, giving Sam Elliott a run for his money as the sort of aging Marlboro Man cowboy who sets older female hearts swooning. As sensitive and gentle as he is ruggedly masculine, Max is also a terrific cook, paints for a hobby and has a loving relationship with his old horse Shirley. He also has a teenage daughter (Aimee Williams), from his former marriage to a much younger woman, who doesn’t approve of her father’s new relationship.
“You’re an interesting man, Max Hightower,” a clearly besotted Rose tells her new beau, even though she’s made every effort to resist his amorous intentions. Watching the emotionally guarded character soften is one of the chief pleasures of this meandering road movie which takes a few too many detours. Among the many supporting characters are Lily (Pam Grier, yet another veteran performer here given a chance to shine), a fellow spa patron with whom Rose forms an instant kinship; Karen (Cindy Pickett), Rose’s old friend who monitors her from afar; Rose’s son Will (Erik Fellows), who suffers from addiction issues; and Will’s new wife Ashley (Amy Davidson), who vainly tries to play peacemaker.
Being Rose suffers from its plot contrivances and cliched characters, but it means well and that counts for a lot. It’s hard not to get caught up in Rose’s fate, especially with Shepherd infusing her portrayal of the spunky character with subtle grace notes. Brolin is equally good, movingly conveying the loneliness and pathos underlying Max’s good humor. The couple’s slow burning relationship is so compelling, in fact, that you wish the film had focused more on it rather than dealing with so many subplots.
Director-screenwriter McCall isn’t fully successful in juggling the tonal shifts, resulting in moments that play awkwardly in this film that seems most suitable for cable airing. But if the story falters at times, the picturesque New Mexico locations and the appealing lead performances provide ample compensation.
Production: Tesoro Pictures
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
Cast: Cybill Shepherd, James Brolin, Pam Grier, Cindy Pickett, Aimee Williams, Erik Fellows, Amy Davidson
Director-screenwriter: Rod McCall
Producers: Greg Clonts, Rod McCall
Executive producers: J. Todd Harris, Eric A. Williams
Director of photography: Colemar Nichols
Production designer: John Huke
Editor: Stephen Griffin
Composer: Brian Ralston
Costume designer: Tabitha Orr
Casting: Faith Hibbs-Clark