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Movie Review: ‘How to Live Forever’

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(Buster Martin, 101, is one of those profiled in "How to Live Forever.")

(Buster Martin, 101, is one of those profiled in “How to Live Forever.”)

Wine_Bill--NEW Bill Wine
Bill Wine has been KYW Newsradio’s movie critic since 2001. You can...
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By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060

Catchy title, but… promises, promises.

No, this documentary will not provide anyone with the secret to everlasting life.  As if.   Sorry.

But what How to Live Forever will do for its audience is get them to think about what ultimately gives life meaning.  And this focus on the cognitive wrestling match that pits quantity of life versus quality of life is a fascinating and crucial consideration that, let’s face it, proves to be of more interest and urgency the older you are.

Which means, yes, for a mid-summer release in the midst of a movie season overwhelmingly aimed at the young, this is obvious and valuable counterprogramming.

Among the questions the film poses (to on-screen respondents and thus to us) is, if someone offered you a pill that would allow you to live for 500 years, would you take it?

This is one of many attention-grabbing and thought-provoking queries that the director/co-writer/producer, baby boomer Mark Wexler (Tell Them Who You Are, Me and My Matchmaker), the son of acclaimed cinematographer/director Haskell Wexler, articulates on his worldwide trek in search of enlightenment.

Appearing on camera throughout and offering his own midlife-crisis preoccupations as a springboard for the film’s exploratory approach, Wexler travels to, among other places, Scottsdale, London, San Francisco, Okinawa, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Iceland.

His peripatetic film does not exactly overflow with wit, although it’s not ponderous or overly sober by any means.

But the director is not heavyhanded or preachy either. It’s a curious, open-minded, playfully engaging doc.

Such seniors as Suzanne Somers, Phyllis Diller, Jack LaLanne, Willard Scott, and Ray Bradbury are among the interviewed notables who offer their takes on approaching and achieving a long life as the film examines nutrition, exercise, medicine, spirituality, the psychology and therapeutic effects of laughter, cryogenics, yoga, and hormone therapies as avenues to longevity.

And Wexler tracks down several less familiar centenarians who are still going strong and actively participating in their own lives who try to share their anecdotes and experiences and observations and habits and formulas and theories.

Much as I hesitate to use this expression, it must be said that the parade of talking heads does eventually get old.  Thus the film winds down instead of heating up.  But not before generating its share of useful folk wisdom in entertaining fashion, demonstrating the same realistically positive outlook that many of the interviewees allude to and the film itself recommends.

So we’ll age 2½ stars out of 4. How to Live Forever is a likable look at longevity that also allows for some levity.

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