Last week, my wife and I watched a movie on TV that was a repeat for us, but one we found even more fascinating the second time around.It was the original "Cocoon" movie, released back in 1985.
It is the story of a few bold retirees in a Florida retirement home who trespass onto a neighbor's property to swim in his indoor pool. The pool contains recuperating aliens who hibernate inside of what look like huge dinosaur eggs. The vital force within these cocoons rejuvenates the oldsters, but neither they, nor their wives, can keep the fountain of youth a secret. The men's sudden physical vigor and youthful capacity convince their wives to join them. When they too become healthy and active, those failing old people in the extended care facility of the home rush to soak away their failing bodies and persistent ills.
Brian Dennehy plays the part of the alien leader who is directing the rescue of the recuperating aliens still in their cocoons. He and three others of his crew are disguised as human beings. They at first are friendly and allow the original couples to continue their miraculous hydrotherapy. Once the couples discover their benefactors are supernatural beings, the alien rescue team joins them in their recreation, shedding their human disguises and moving about the house next door as creatures of a purer form of energy and light.
When it begins to look like human life for the old people has taken a turn for the better, human nature makes a mess of it again. Hume Cronyn plays the part of Joe Finley, one of the original trespassers. When he feels younger, he begins to behave like his younger, flirtatious self. He snubs his wife, Alma Finley (played by his real wife, Jessica Tandy), and cavorts with a younger woman. Alma leaves Joe, exclaiming "I want to live too!" The location of their fountain of youth becomes public and everyone rushes to the pool next door, overloading the vital capacity of the alien cocoons and killing two of them.
Kind, but firm, Walter, the alien played by Dennehy, catches the humans cavorting toward destruction and orders them all to the retirement home and life as it used to be before the miraculous event. The plot turns when Ben Luckett, one of the first visitors to the pool, played by Wilford Brimley, takes responsibility for the fiasco and offers to help return the remaining cocoons to the depths of the sea for protected recuperation and later rescue. Other oldsters assist until the cocoons are again safe at sea. Compassionate Walter then offers to take all of the old humans to his home in Aeternia (which is Latin for eternity and vital life force and being beyond time). The movie becomes more markedly religious. There has been a miraculous healing of failing humanity, transgression and punishment, confession and forgiveness, baptism in the ocean and then a trip to eternity, where all worldly goods are left behind.
Ben Luckett and his wife, Mary (played by Maureen Stapleton), are reluctant to leave their daughter and grandson on earth. The flight to the world beyond is countered by the tug of the temporary. Ben tries to explain to his grandson while the two are fishing in a nearby river. Ben can't describe where he is going, only that he and his wife will never be sick again or grow old or die. The fisher grandson hears the call and tries to follow his grandparents to their rendezvous with the alien rescue ship, but the pleas of his mother, aboard a U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat, prompts him to jump into the ocean, where he is picked up and returned to his only earthly parent. At the end of the movie, the boat loaded with aliens and old people is lost in the fog and lifted into the flying saucer.
In the closing scene, which is memorial service for those lost at sea, a priest encourages family and friends not to be overcome by their grief by reiterating a traditional Christian hope that human tragedy will be transformed into a blessed eternity. While others continue to express their sorrow, only the grandson removes his sunglasses, looks heavenward and smiles.
Watch the movie next time around and let me know if you think I'm crazy.
Doug Rich is pastor of Pioneer Presbyterian Church in Clatsop Plains.