Hollywood indeed works in funny ways, proving so delightfully again this summer of 2015 that truth can can sometimes be a strange bedfellow of fiction.
Blythe Danner delivers the performance of her life in I’ll See You in My Dreams. The blue-eyed actress embraces the role of Carol Peterson, co-written and directed so warmly by Brett Haley, and turns it into a subtle celebration of how time indeed should still matter to us all.
Haley and Marc Basch have drawn a story of a widow quietly living her life in southern California thinking she’s quite comfortable and satisfied and over the death of her dear husband in a plane crash 20 years prior, thank you. Then her house companion of the last 14 years, pretty dog Hazel, can’t get up one morning, and she must make the final fateful decision at the vet’s office. The movie starts with this painfully sad scene early on, and the totally like-aged Friday night crowd in the packed Manlius Art Cinema made its empathy audible and palpable.
A certain uneasiness sets in as Carol goes back to her routine with the girls, played with big-stroke humor by Rhea Perlman, huge and curious concern by Mary Kay Place and innocent confusion by June Squibb. Then new pool boy Lloyd — young adult, really, played quite pleasingly by Martin Starr, who can seem like a less confident Matthew Broderick about a decade past his Ferris Bueller days — walks into her life and becomes an interesting if somewhat odd new friend. But the sparks are saved for the entrance of Bill, a cowboy gent who locks eyes with her on the patio at the club who proceeds to loosen feelings and thoughts she hasn’t felt in, well, too long. Her daughter Kat, low-keyed by Malin Akerman of zany TV sitcomTrophy Wife short fame, jets in from New York City for a well-timed and much-needed visit.
All of these actors add to the sum. The golden girls playing off each other deliriously after getting high and taking a trip by foot to stock up at the local supermarket, only to be stopped on the way home by a policeman. Lloyd and Carol go to a bar to sing karaoke, where she opens ears because in her past life she sang with a band in New York City and he because … otherwise. Bill and Carol dine on his boat, named after the Miles Davis song So What, which they both dig.
But Danner, at 72, is the focal point, the one person in every scene who makes them all better, the shining star who makes this movie great.
The emotions are just right. Hurt, anger, surprise, joy, confusion all either fleeting or rooted, but never over the top. Her physical beauty is striking, from those blue eyes on down, looking, yes, smooth for her age, yet natural. I don’t know if human hands have aided nature, yet I hope not. But if so, it was accomplished in a way that it doesn’t scream out in obviousness and an attendant unpleasantness.
Widow of Bruce Paltrow, mother of Gwyneth Paltrow, now deservedly a potential trophy winner in her 70s.
Life is something to be lived greatly right to the end, Blythe Danner shows, in a story about just that. How about a standing ovation for both?
Do you have a favorite movie featuring seniors, and if so, what and why? Do you have a favorite Blythe Danner movie, and if so, what and why? Do you appreciate smaller artsy movies, and why or why not?