Review: '49' catches up with some old acquaintances

Published October 13, 2006 12:00 am

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* WHERE: Broadway Centre Cinemas.

* WHEN: Opens today.

* RATING: Not rated, but probably PG for language and mature themes.

* RUNNING TIME: 135 minutes.

* BOTTOM LINE: Michael Apted revisits the subjects he interviewed as kids - and some aren't too thrilled to see him again.

Fourteen years ago, when I was younger and more foolhardy, I predicted Michael Apted's remarkable "Up" documentaries - in which he interviewed a group of British 7-year-olds in 1964 and interviewed them again every seven years - would stop with "35 Up" because the people participating in the film appeared fed up with exposing their lives so often.

Apted's newest installment in the series, "49 Up," proves me wrong, and I couldn't be happier. Apted again rounds up his dozen subjects (out of the 14 originally interviewed) to talk about their lives approaching the half-century mark.

The original "Seven Up!," made for Granada Television's "World In Action" series (for which Apted was a researcher), was a social experiment, contrasting the class distinctions between rich and poor kids who would become "the executive and shop steward" of the year 2000.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the class-warfare lecture: Most of the subjects got on with living their lives, ignoring their class distinctions in the process.

One example is Tony, who was an apprentice jockey at 14 and a cabby at 28. At 49, he and his wife are living the upwardly mobile dream: building a vacation home in sunny Spain.

Another is Bruce, who went to boarding school at 7 and Oxford at 21. He rejected the upper-class route to teach the poor in London and Bangladesh. Now he's teaching at a boys school in London and asking himself whether he's sold out.

Watching "49 Up" often feels like catching up with old friends. You find out who's still married, who got divorced, who got remarried, who had kids, who had grandkids, who has been fighting health problems, and what everybody is doing these days.

But while we may feel a connection with these people, many of them do not feel the same way. The overarching theme to the interviews is the resentment and anger the subjects feel toward Apted for coming 'round every seven years to put them in the hot seat. Suzy, once a cynic on marriage and now happily married for 27 years, declares she'll bow out after this film. John, the barrister who skipped out of "28 Up" and "42 Up," compares it to reality TV, something titillating for the masses but not necessarily of lasting value.

Will there be a "56 Up"? I won't make any predictions this time. If "49 Up" teaches us anything, it's that life doesn't go as you expect it.


* SEAN P. MEANS can be reached at movies@sltrib.com or 801-257-8602. Send comments about this review to livingeditor@sltrib.com.



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