Investigating different phases of life often leads to gross over generalizations. For example, we all tend to lump together the characteristics, both negative and positive, of Millennials. Recognizing that tendency, some sociologists are still brave enough to talk about establishing a new category.
This emerging grouping distinguishes the generation born before 1946 and separates it from the Baby Boomers. It’s called “Adult II.” Watch for it on those forms that require you to check off your age. If you’re 75 and older, you could find yourself with an option for his new category.
“The Mule” sets the standard for a set of new generalizations for Adult IIs. Forget the wheel chairs and nursing homes. Lots of people in their mid-70s, 80s, and 90s are doing exciting engaging things. In this case, not all of them legal.
At age 89, national treasure Clint Eastwood directs and stars in his latest film “The Mule.” His foray into the real-life story of 90-year old Earl Stone breaks through all the barriers of ageism in a well-managed and refreshing way.
Stone (Clint Eastwood) spends his days tending his horticulture business. Retirement is has never crossed his mind. Stone enjoys the attention he receives at local flower shows because his lilies win awards. Clearly, he loves being the center of attention, and although he may be moving a little slowly, he’s never lost his ability to charm the women or pop a cold one with fellows half his age.
Stone isn’t one to reflect, so the audience has to put the pieces together. His daughter Iris (Allison Eastwood – yes, Clint’s real-life daughter) hasn’t spoken to him in twelve years because he missed her wedding. His ex-wife Mary (Dianne Wiest) has a heart so broken, that the years can’t mend it. All in all, Stone has made a terrible mess of his family life.
For the moment, he’s more concerned with the impending foreclosure of his property and the failure of his horticulture company. When an opportunity to make some quick money transporting a parcel arrives, Stone doesn’t question it. He’s happy to make the delivery, park his truck, leave for a couple of hours, and return to find a few hundred dollars cash in the glove box.
The force and suspense of the plot comes from Stone’s escalating involvement with the drug cartel. He’s very good at what he does. So good that he’s summoned to Mexico to meet Laton (Andy Garcia), the godfather of the cartel. Indulging in a night of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll, Stone’s desire for the good times always outweighs his good judgment. At 89, he’s an adrenaline junky.
The film never once suggests that anybody takes advantage of Stone because of his age. The drug dealers meet him on both their terms and his. Stone escapes some close encounters with the law because he thinks on his feet and maximizes the stereotypes of old; it’s those very stereotypes that he and the cartel manipulate.
The end of the film is what it has to be. DEA Agents (Laurence Fishburne and Bradley Cooper) prove relentless. They might be surprised by the cartel’s best “mule,” but they treat him like any other drug runner.
Then it comes: Stone’s enlightenment about his family ultimately proves that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
Rated R for language throughout and brief sexuality/nudity.
Marilyn Robitaille writes film reviews for the Stephenville Empire-Tribune and the Glen Rose Reporter.