written and directed by Elliot Greenbaum
by Walter Chaw Playing at times like a documentary (indeed, the film used the residents of its retirement-home setting as extras), Assisted Living is a troubling picture, balanced as it is midway between fiction and essay, with some actors feigning dementia and others clearly in its sway. Todd (Michael Bonsignore) is a pot-smoking twentysomething working at a nursing home--a kind-hearted soul, it seems, burned out in more ways than one and fixated on one of his charges, Mrs. Pearlman (Maggie Riley). Their relationship really not much more than a sketch, Todd's "rescue" of Mrs. Pearlman is heartfelt but verging on the sentimental and the pyrrhic besides. On the one hand a portrait of decline, on the other a heavy-handed sermon on it, Assisted Living has a few moments that charm and a scene or two that even transcend the discomfort of its premise and presentation, but not enough stamina in the end to justify its smoke and mirrors. Originally published: October 7, 2003.