As he remembers his late mother’s “downward slope,” Mark Wexler’s camera scans a series of photos of her: “I prefer to remember her like this — high-spirited, creative, young.” The scene sets up a tension in Wexler’s documentary, between yearning for long life and dreading old age.
The film rushes from one interview to another, from gerontologists and funeral directors to fitness expert Jack LaLanne (who died in January) and Suzanne Somers (at 100, she says, “I want to play Chrissy Snow again as a really, really smart old lady”) — and lots of old people. They describe how they’ve lived or how they imagine dying. “I have a stick with a nail in it, and I go through life jabbing it at truths, and I keep them in a garbage bag,” says Ray Bradbury in not precisely a prescription, but something like an apt summation. Some say longevity might be achieved through nanobots in the blood or pet robots; other eat fish or smoke cigarettes and drink.
As Wexler worries about forgetting, declining health and crass advertising geared toward baby boomers, he doesn’t come up with a compelling story or, for that matter, refined questions. You get an idea of where he might begin when writer Pico Iyer asks, “Mark, what moves you to make this movie?” He comes back to his mom, and how she looked to him as she was aging. But you get the feeling that other answers remain out of reach.