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Movie Review of the Week- “I’ll See You in My Dreams”

Movie Review of the Week- “I’ll See You in My Dreams”
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By Alison Bailes

These days, when so many movies are full of explosions and car chases, murder and intrigue, it’s easy to categorize a slice of life film as “small” or “slight”.  If those words sound disparaging then I apologize. But to me, small is a welcome relief (especially in the summer months) and on closer inspection, slight often turns out to be anything but. Such is the case in director Brett Haley’s feature “I’ll see you in my Dreams”, which turns on everyday life and the momentous minutiae of living.

Superficially about a seventy year old woman dating after twenty odd years, this charming comedy delves into deeper issues about stepping out of one’s comfort zone and embracing new experiences. The pacing is measured, the humor is tinged with melancholia, and the central performance by Blythe Danner is remarkable. Recognized for her comedic roles in “Meet the Parents” and “Meet the Fockers” and known as the mother of Gwyneth Paltrow, Danner is a successful actress who has been working since the late 1960s and who is particularly well respected for her stage work. Up until now, a leading role in movies has escaped her.  And it’s hard to understand why. Like a less annoying Diane Keaton, Danner can play smart, sexy, complicated and funny…and she sings too!

Carol (Danner) lives alone with her dog, enjoying bridge with her three friends (Rhea Perlman, Mary Kay Place and June Squibb) and playing the occasional round of golf.  She has not dated since her husband died two decades ago and has become a creature of neat, regular habits, not inclined to branch out of her routine. When her beloved dog dies, Sally (Perlman) encourages her to get involved with social activities at her retirement home. Luckily, Carol runs into Bill at the golf club (Sam Elliott), a rakish hunk who takes an instant shine to her but not before she has suffered the comic indignities of speed dating for the senior set.

Carol also begins a platonic friendship with Lloyd (Martin Starr, proving he’s more than a one-note actor), a directionless 30-something who works for a pool cleaning business. Both Carol and Lloyd are looking for connection and find they are kindred spirits, sharing a love of karaoke and wine. Haley (and his co-writer Marc Basch) avoid making this relationship icky; there is no awkward sexual tension and the friendship develops organically.

Elliott (“The Big Lebowski”) is a virile screen presence and his chemistry with Danner is intense. Sure, watching sexual flirtation between two 70 year olds may not be catnip for movie-goers, but it sure does help when the parties are as attractive and appealing as these two. And Haley develops their relationship with just the right touch; Carol is nervous, they are tentative but most importantly they are human.

“I’ll see you in my Dreams” doesn’t proceed as expected, but that’s pretty much life isn’t it? There are moments of great sadness as well as joy. Danner proves herself quite a comedienne and the scenes with Squibb, Place and Perlman play well, without resorting to Golden Girls clichés. Malin Akerman shows up as Carol’s daughter and there is a rather lovely mother/daughter scene.

It’s shocking that such a young director (Haley is only in his thirties) has such a fine feel for the emotions of an older generation. It’s shocking that Sam Elliott hasn’t been a leading man much more often. And it’s a pleasant surprise that Danner is so beautifully compelling and affecting. Nothing about this film is expected…which is reason enough to see it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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