Friday, April 26, 2013

Redford’s Vanity Project THE COMPANY YOU KEEP Is A Star-studded Dud

Opening today in Raleigh at the Colony Theater and the Raleigh Grande:


(Dir. Robert Redford, 2013)

Robert Redford’s ninth film as director, and 39th as actor, is polished and moves along briskly, but its tired political themes and its preachiness exposes what it really is: a vanity project. 

Redford’s character, a widowed public interest lawyer living comfortably in Albany, New York, was once part of the Weather Underground, a radical organization formed in the late ‘60s with the intent to overthrow the U.S. Government. Redford changed his identity in the late ‘70s as he is wanted by the F.B.I. for his alleged involvement in a Michigan bank robbery back then which resulted in the murder of a security guard.

The cast is full of famous faces who have gone into hiding like Redford, including Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte, Julie Christie, Richard Jenkins, and Stephen Root. Intrepid scruffy Albany Sun Times reporter Shia Labeouf makes the connections between them that lead to Redford being exposed as a former antiwar radical and the chase is on.

Redford was ready for this with a stash of fake I.D.s, cash and a baseball cap as part of an ingenious disguise when in public, as well as custody papers for his brother (Chris Cooper) so that he can take care of Redford’s daughter (Jackie Evancho). This gives Redford the chance to restage scenes from THE FUGITVE with him cleverly eluding the authorities at every turn.

Labeouf, who, of course, has to answer to a hard-assed editor (Stanley Tucci), theorizes that Redford is on the run, not just to escape the F.B.I. led by another hard-ass, Terrance Howard, but to somehow clear his name.

The tone is even more self-important and self-righteous than Redford’s last film, the pretentious LIONS FOR LAMBS. Here, instead of Andrew Garfield, Labeouf symbolizes the young generation who Redford can lecture to. The gist being that the children of the ‘60s took it to the streets to protest the government’s involvement in Vietnam, while you kids are more concerned with updating your Facebook profiles as Jenkins, a former radical now a college professor, puts it in a laughable attempt at a meaningful line.

While interviewing Brendan Gleeson as the cop that originally investigated the robbery, Labeouf conveniently comes across indie film darling Brit Marling as Gleeson’s adopted daughter. While flirting with her he figures out her connection to Redford, and while I won’t spoil what it is, I’ll tell you that it’s no exciting revelation.

But then nothing is in this star-studded dud that’s only really about Redford fighting to still be relevant. The man has made some excellent films, among them ORDINARY PEOPLE and QUIZ SHOW, but here he’s treading water while he shakes his head at younger generations for dropping the ball.

I’m not sure what he wants us to do. Go hold up a protest sign on the corner? Join whatever is today’s equivalent to the Weather Underground? What?

When his noble character re-unites with his old flame Julie Christie whose help he needs in a nicely-lit cabin and they discuss old times there is a semblance of dramatic weight, but the phoniness of the dialogue and the predictability of the situation bog it way down. That pretty much sums up every scene come to think of it.

Throughout the film, we see Redford’s porn-stached mugshot from the ‘70s (actually a re-purposed still from ELECTRIC HORSEMAN it looks like to me) as if to remind us that not only was he hot back then, he was a man of major conviction. But then, he always is in every movie he’s made.

Here, our Uncle Redford has made a disappointing film about how disappointed he is in us. Too bad his incredible cast and impeccable narrative skills (I will concede that it’s not boring), can’t elevate it to be anything more than that.

More later...


Anonymous said...

Sorry for the tangential question but here goes: Do you know if/when "Upstream Color" is coming to the triangle?

barbara said...

I loved this movie because it reminds us of the price of being apolitical, that nothing changes without people's passion being visible and that means risk. We do not have Viet Nam, but what we have allowed to substitue as health care has killed many more innocents. Maybe it's time to blow up some shit...