Four high school friends, now in their mid-30s, gather for their regular poker game. No wives or children on the premises. Time to kick back, drink a little beer and be themselves: to gripe and swear, boast and taunt, laugh and perhaps share a few fading dreams.
Male camaraderie. Commercial television has a difficult time showing it honestly. But the restrictions on language and subject matter don't apply to cable, so Home Box Office is able to present a rippingly good look at it this weekend.
There's more to "Half a Lifetime" than that, however. The hourlong film, premiering at 8 p.m. Sunday on the cable network, is about growing up--passing from youth to middle age, re-evaluating goals and priorities, accepting the fact that life is a process, not a contest that can be won or lost.
Adapted for TV by Stephen Metcalfe from his 1983 Off-Broadway play, the drama features dynamite performances by Gary Busey, Saul Rubinek, Keith Carradine and Nick Mancuso and a script that crackles with energy and builds like a poker game--easy-going in the beginning but increasingly tense as the stakes grow higher. A series of revealing moments involving each character represent the successive bids, and they are expertly orchestrated by director Daniel Petrie.
And, as in poker, the drama climaxes but doesn't offer resolution. Life goes on after the games--poker or other.
"Half a Lifetime" also will play on HBO Wednesday and July 29.