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Paradise Grove (2002)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Another beautiful morning at Paradise Grove Jewish retirement home, another death - the 97th in 13 years, observes Keith. He is the 19 years old, assistant coffin shifter and general factotum of the home managed by his mother Dee Perry. Also among the staff are Annie, the possessive cook; Rose, a doomed organiser; Carolina, an avid reader of the personal ads; Eileen, who leads the equally eccentric residents in light exercise; and Steve Norman, doctor on call and Dee's lover.

Dee wants her son to leave his mundane existence behind and find his way in the world. But Keith is not interested. He thinks happiness is overrated; besides, he doesn't want to leave his argumentative grandfather, Izzie, a former lingerie salesman whose chief pleasure in his old age is listening to the radio and reading women's underwear catalogues. By day Keith attends to the routines of his job, while at night, in the sanctuary of his room, he teaches himself Hebrew.

One day, a girl arrives at the house. She calls herself Kim and talks her way into a job. Kim hides a secret linked to a gun that she stashes away in the drawers. While Kim learns the ropes - and the other staff take bets on how long she will last - the house settles into its familiar, quirky habits.

Keith is serious about his Jewish identity, which Izzie finds ludicrous. Whoever heard of a shvartzer, uncircumcised Jew? Like Dee, he wants Keith to escape, to get on with life, not bother himself with old people and religion. But Keith is obstinately staying put and, in spite of their differences, the two get along pretty well.

One night, Izzie has a serious medical crisis. There is no doubt that he is dying. Dee wants to make sure his will is in order, Keith wants to make his grandfather's life as comfortable as possible, the staff want to give their condolences (and have their eyes on a few mementos). As for Izzie, he is as uncooperative as ever.

Izzie's health deteriorates, his personal care taken over by Keith and Kim. Kim confides to Keith that her father is a spy; she stole his gun to stop him killing people and she is worried that he will find her. Kim and Keith begin a romance. Carolina finally goes on a date with a man from the personal ads. Meanwhile, Kim's father is indeed on the trail of his daughter.

Izzie's 80th birthday approaches, and Keith hires a stripper. After a shaky start, the night is a success, but Keith cannot follow through with the final part of the plan: to kill, or assist Izzie in his death. With tempers high, and the gun having already been fired, Izzie suffers a stroke. Now he is seriously incapacitated, unable to speak, feed himself or even acknowledge anyone around him. Keith tries to persuade Dee to kill Izzie, but she can't either. Neither can she reciprocate the desire of Dr Norman to make their affair more permanent.

Keith asks Kim to marry him, but she turns him down. She doesn't believe in commitments; besides she may have to leave at a minute's notice if her father finds her. Keith decides to be circumcised.

Dee organises a big birthday party for Izzie, complete with a Klezmer jazz band. Carolina invites her new fiancé. Everyone is thrilled. However, while retrieving one of the disoriented residents, Kim catches sight of her father. She escapes just as he arrives at the party.

Dee and Kim's dad have a huge argument, which grows even worse when they discover that Keith really has had a circumcision, out of love, he declares, for Kim. Kim, her name now revealed as Rachel, returns to the party. She'll give her father the gun on condition that he stops killing people - which he refuses to do - and that he stops following her.

Keith and Rachel leave the house, but before he leaves Keith wants to say goodbye to Izzie. He picks up a pillow and smothers the old man. Finally, Keith leaves Paradise Grove, secure in the knowledge that life there will go on without him.