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It’s Never Too Late for Your First Kiss: 'A Love Song' and Grownup Romance

Stars Dale Dickey and Wes Studi talk about why their on-screen love story is one we really need right now

Wes Studi and Dale Dickey play their guitars with each other in the film A Love Song

Bleecker Street vía AP

Wes Studi (left) and Dale Dickey star in "A Love Song."

“I’ve been known to play pretty-rough gritty characters for the most part,” says Dale Dickey, 60. “People remember me as the skank from Breaking Bad — wonderful small supporting roles.” Besides crushing a man under an ATM in AMC’s lauded series, Dickey ate her werewolf son in True Blood, played Patty the Daytime Hooker on My Name is Earl, and whomped Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone, the film that made Lawrence a star and earned Dickey an Independent Spirit Award.

Now she gets her first romantic lead role in Max Walker-Silverman’s A Love Song. She plays Faye, a widow living in a trailer by a remote Colorado mountain lake, awaiting a reunion with her also widowed childhood sweetheart Lito (Wes Studi, 74, The Last of the Mohicans, Dances With Wolves). The pair talk to AARP about their film, which will appeal to fans of Nomadland and is on screens now.

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Dale Dickey in a scene from the film A Love Song

Alfonso Herrera Salcedo/Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Dale Dickey

Faye is as tough as any character you’ve played, but she may be the sweetest character you’ve played.

Dickey: It’s a softer, gentler me than you usually see me play. I’m usually pretty fierce. Faye is fierce, but in a quiet way.

A Love Song is the most musical of movies — it was originally entitled So This Is What the Songs Are All About. Faye lives a lonely life, but the tunes on her car radio channel her deepest feelings.

Dickey: Those songs can make you hopeful, they can make you sad, reminisce. You don’t need that long title. I love the fact that Max simplified it to A Love Song.

Studi: I love the idea that being out there all by herself, a radio was Faye’s only connection to the world. Every time she switched on the radio the perfect song came up in terms of what she’s thinking about or something that’s happening in her life. She and Lito’s courtship builds toward the moment when they finally get to sing a song together.

Kind of like when Romeo and Juliet meet, and the lines they say to each other form a sonnet, so that the music of their words symbolizes the love they create together.

Dickey: That’s really beautiful. That Shakespeare was poetic. Music is so part of Faye’s life, and I love the mystical element of the powers greater than ourselves that are up there kind of, you know, making the world go around. Music was a connection for Faye and Lito when our characters were younger. It’s a lovely way to bring us back to fruition, and reminisce about the people we were with who loved music.

In this movie, both of you get your first romantic on-screen kiss. What’s the difference between a first kiss for teens and at our age?

Studi: There is no difference. I mean, life does not stop at any particular age or time.

Dickey: You’re just wiser and older and it has a different meaning. But there’s still the rush of a first kiss. But there’s also a lot of baggage. They’re there for each other. It's more of a comforting thing. Just to have that connection, whether it goes anywhere or not. Love the one you’re with, comfort the people you’re with. There’s not that teenage angst; it’s a different kind of angst. There’s still nerves. It’s just a more mature anxiety, kissing someone else for the first time after you've been with a married partner for so long. I imagine it's like going out on a first date. It's a strange and different thing. But there's a bond between us so it's not that strange.

Wes Studi stars in the film A Love Song

Alfonso Herrera Salcedo/Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Wes Studi

We are in what one expert called “The Golden Age of the Aging Actor.” Movie stars, like athletes, touring musicians, and politicians, are way older than they used to be, not typically in their 30s but their 50s and up. With recent shows like OldAll the Old KnivesThe Old WayOld Henry and The Old Man, is our AARP demo taking over Hollywood?

Studi: I think audiences are looking for stories that include our demographic — I mean, we have disposable income as well. Characters of our own age are still having the same kind of emotional drives. “Elders,” if you will, will not be tucked away. We're still a part of the world. And I think audiences will appreciate the fact that love does not end at any particular point.

Dickey: At film festivals, I hear older people saying, “I haven't seen anything I could relate to in a long time.” Everyone can relate to loss and grief at some point, especially when you’re aging, and learning to be alone. Even if it doesn’t come to fruition, the possibility of long-awaited romance can change their lives. There’s a line in the movie: “However long you’ve got, it’s worth it.” You just never know how long you get. A friend of my mom’s had been divorced and finally met this man, and they were just like a teenage couple in love. It was so adorable. They had one great year together and he died quickly of a heart attack. But she got one year and that year with that man was worth it. 

Moviegoers our age are the ones driving blockbuster hits like Top Gun: Maverick and also award-winning art house films. Why don’t studios make more movies for us?

Dickey: Money, money, money, money.

But wouldn’t they make more money if they paid attention to us? We have the time and the money.

Dickey: Maybe we’ll start a trend. My 94-year-old dad might get to see A Love Song down in Tennessee. He hates movies, but he'll go to see me!

Tim Appelo covers entertainment and is the film and TV critic for AARP. Previously, he was the entertainment editor at Amazon, video critic at Entertainment Weekly, and a critic and writer for The Hollywood Reporter, People, MTV, The Village Voice and LA Weekly.