Old girls just wanna have fun, too. And while a nice little humour-spiced drama centred on the self-actualisation of a woman "of a certain age" as the French say, clearly has limited appeal, this does have a sweet and poignant charm for the mature set.
Cassavetes, son of John, makes a straightforward directorial debut with little flourish but some sensitivity, having written the role of Valentine for his mother, the ever brilliant Gina Rowlands.
Rowlands plays the widowed Mildred, a wholehearted, now redundant wife and mom who doesn't know what to do with herself now that she can't dote full time on her married son and her helpful hovering has driven her daughter (Moira Kelly) screaming from the house.
Luckily Monica (Tomei), the low-class, high-spirited floozy across the street is no supermom, so Mildred joyously takes over the day-care of her little boy, the cute-as-a-button J.J. (Jake Lloyd). Yanked into the ghastly but vivacious Monica's orbit, Mildred gradually realises her life is her own to do with as she pleases. Helping to bring on this discovery is Depardieu, a trifle incongruous as a heavily-accented amorous trucker, but as one of the film's producers an enthusiastic one.
The pleasure here is watching Rowlands, fretting over her own offspring, bonding warmly with her neighbour's and belatedly seizing the day. As Depardieu's Big Tommy says of Mildred, Rowlands is "a hundred per cent woman," and one it is always good to spend time with.