I'll See You in My Dreams Theatrical Review
There are no grandiose overtures to lure the audience in, but as soon as the film starts rolling, the trance begins. The plot is incidental; the story profound.
At a time when our elders are undervalued, and not fully respected as individuals, writer/director Brett Haley (The New Year; The Ridge; several acclaimed shorts) has created extraordinarily authentic characters that are relatable to a spectrum that covers...all people. Haley describes the central characters as "people in the third acts of their lives." (Well, then, I must be ready for Guinness...and Willard Scott.)
Helping transcend the "advanced age" of their alter egos on film are stellar performances by Blythe Danner as Carol (Meet the Parents franchise; Alice; Will & Grace; St. Elsewhere; countless other film and TV credits; lest we forget THE Mother of Goop), Rhea Perlman as Sally (Matilda; Taxi; Cheers; The Mindy Project), June Squibb as Georgina (Nebraska; About Schmidt; Scent of a Woman), (Mary Kay Place as Rona (Girl, Interrupted; Being John Malkovich; The Big Chill), and Sam Elliott as Bill (Tombstone; Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; Mask).
Carol is a vibrant, active, social woman widowed long before we meet her, but experiencing the recent loss of her dog. A detail explored more in its manifestation of grief, and how it becomes a catalyst for Carol to reexamine her life, and transition. There's a comfort in someone else's loss. A comfort that we are not alone in our grieving. Carol invites us along on her journey with human experiences shared across generations.
Long before her new quest for self-discovery, Carol's evolution begins. A series of casual events leads to a seemingly unlikely friendship with her much younger pool man, Lloyd (Martin Starr; Knocked Up; Superbad; Freaks and Geeks). The misconceptions here is that age and/or gender could in some way be a limiting factor in friendship. What is refreshing, however, is how naturally Haley unfolds the oft imposed romantic awkwardness that platonic friendships endure without regard to the age difference (other than a cougar comment from Rona).
After a nonchalant, eye opening speed dating venture, Carol finds romance, and a revived sex life with Bill (Elliott). Bill is easy going, easy to listen to, with an easy smile, and eyes that sparkle whenever he looks at Carol. A "cowboy" on the surface, he is uncomplicated, and clear with his intentions. The heat and chemistry between them is that of any onscreen couple exploring their attraction and appeal. Skipping any spoilers, their relationship is warm, comfortable, and sexy, though not without complications.
In a fun and ageless turn, Carol asks Sally if she still has any medical marijuana left. Carol, Sally, Georgina and Rona get stoned. Omitted is the cuteness of stoned seniors (as if they were kittens), and any exaggerated portrayal of stoners in general. It is a genuine experience authentically (and, of course, humorously) played. It does not become the gateway to anything else. The alcohol, after all, was already there. In fact, it almost appears as if a subtle, but evident, statement is being made with respect to "casual alcoholism." Carol, just as her friends and many of us, enjoys a glass of wine here and there; but as Carol's experiences and emotions increasingly unsettle her comfort levels, she "casually" turns to increasing amounts of alcohol. Are they still reasonable amounts? Or, do they begin to border on excessive? That is left to ponder, or debate.
Ultimately, there are no cataclysmic events to recount, no complicated characters full of unresolved issues; just beautifully captured experiences in the lives of real people...from the mundane to the heartbreaking with plenty of humor...a complex web of the nuances of life. Regardless of the manifestation and ultimately, exhibition, we all feel grief, joy, love, anger, and a range of other emotions...some that we embrace, and others with which we grapple. This film engages and envelops from beginning to end transcending any superficial barriers while simply exploring a few facets of human nature. A-
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 92 minutes
Distributed By: Bleecker Street
About Judith Raymer
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