The twilight years of a once-young Turk in Hollywood form the core of the respected Stern’s latest (Shares, 1992; a memoir, A Sistermony, 1995; etc.): an assured, affectionate, contemplative story on the end of lives well lived.
Ezra Keneret chafes at being without a project in the pipeline after a long, career as a director. On Fiji, where he’s gone to regroup, he encounters Leet, a slender French tennis pro whose father was an architect of the Nazi collaboration and abandoned his family after WWII. Her beauty and story inspire Keneret, and he takes her back to Hollywood to put both on film. He lines up the production team and financing, draws something cinematic out of Leet’s passive resistance—and after three weeks of shooting, suffers the indignity of having his producer pull the plug. Meanwhile, Keneret’s best friend, Wendell Spear, a transplanted Englishman and film critic/historian, worries his way through a tax audit and, in his Malibu Canyon cabin, chafes at the thought of his favorite granddaughter, the lawyer Jennifer, having no social life. When Keneret is put out to pasture at last, Spear has the chance to do the biography of him he’s long imagined, with Leet helping to put it all together. After Jennifer gets downsized and remains jobless, however, Spear is at loose ends—and then his beloved canyon hideaway is destroyed by forest fire. He goes to Italy for a fresh start but is diagnosed with cancer, returns to LA to be operated on and live out his days dependent on nurses and his new neighbor, Keneret. Time passes and the old guard fades, but Leet, having tracked down and seen her father again, puts the past aside for a successful business doing corporate biographies, that and motherhood contentment enough to soothe her restless spirit.
Haphazardly connected on the surface, the story has roots that go deep into family and friendship, finding there all the nourishment they need.