But as Elsa herself asserts, these things happen in baby steps. As Plummer's irascible exterior begins to soften, so too does the grate of MacLaine's tiresome vim. Suddenly, the familiar caricatures are revealed as symptoms of far more engaging personal stories. Both Elsa and Fred are hopeless romantics deep down - one has indulged that proclivity all their life, the other has almost had it sapped out of them - and who can begrudge a late blooming affection. Elsa has long been infatuated with - and seen herself as - Anita Ekberg in Fellini's La Dolce Vita (1960) and has dreamt of wading into the Trevi Fountain with Marcello Mastroianni at her side. As the bond between her and Fred deepens, Radford's camerawork begins to nod to the great Italian's and the picture even switches to monochrome for a late exchange. It's foregrounds a sense of Elsa's fanciful nostalgia and the fact that Fred hardly feels any. He can't recall the last time he laughed, and fortunately he's run into someone to remind him how. It's corny and sentimental, of course, but Elsa & Fred manages to pull the ship around after an uninspiring start and concludes with two lonely people enjoying the good life.
Ben Nicholson | @BRNicholson