Monday, June 15, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW I'll See You In My Dreams 
Seeking More Amidst Adversity In Life's Twilight Years

Blythe Danner as Carol in Brett Haley's comedy-drama "I'll See You In My Dreams".
  Bleecker Street

Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                          
Monday, June 15, 2015

Ill See You In My Dreams is a lovely, beautiful embrace of real life recalled, contemplated and experienced.  Brett Haleys compassionate and sensible drama is a refreshing film for adults, mature adults and anyone fascinated by life.  Blythe Danner is excellent as Carol, a senior citizen whose greatest joys are in life's rear view mirror.  A singing career, a faithful companion and a husband have all left Carols side.  Youre the best of what I have, a melancholic Carol gently corrects her visiting daughter (Malin Akerman), who has implicitly written off the future for her mother.

Astute, poised and richly observed, “I’ll See You In My Dreams” is a cool gem that simmers and delights.  Its rare for American films to treat elder adults as authentic living beings and not clichés.  After all, many American films are as uncomfortable with women over forty as some men are.  Yet one big truth in America is this: seniors aren't relics.  Seniors live more fulsome, vibrant, passionate and sexual lives than ever.  This is only hinted at in Ill See You In My Dreams, where there are no complaints of aches and pains.  There is, however, discretion and intelligence about aging and life that reverberate throughout.

America has long been a nation fearful of aging.
  We generally treat it as an unruly cutoff point in life.  Abbie Hoffman once advised us not to trust anyone over 30.  Many women find aging to be a sensitive subject.  Carol though, doesn't dwell on it.  Carol merely acknowledges life as it is and seeks more.  But something gnaws at Carol, who on a deeper level seeks to get in touch with herself.
 In Carol lies a woman of totality yet even more possibility.  She's alone but never quite alone: memories of love are perched neatly on Carols mantelpiece, and a stray rat in her California home forever frays her nerves.   

In Ill See You In My Dreams, which also defies the Hollywood meme of immature youth, characters of all ages are listened to and heard.  Their pains, fears and anxieties are felt, their thoughts expressed.  This truthful, entertaining film is about listening, feeling and understanding, and exploring answers to unanswerable questions about life and the idea of order and chaos in it.  This film enervated and moved me with its inescapable truths about lifes latter stages, without sentimental overkill or inordinate doom and gloom.   The men here communicate honestly too, including those who are desperate, blithering fools.

The film also looks at jobless or tenuously employed men and business in America Lloyd (Martin Starr), Carol's pool boy attendant, talks of employees who have left their jobs owing to differences with management”.  Lloyd is struggling to maintain economic security, living with his ailing mother.  "It's a temporary thing, " he explains to Carol.  But in an age where more children in their 40s are living with their parents, is it temporary?  Lloyd too wants security: a safety net for the future.  Approaching 40, Lloyd is as rudderless as Carol is certain of finding more fulfillment in life.  At least 30 years Carols junior, Lloyd is on more static (and on shakier ground) than Carol is. 

One reality "I'll See You In My Dreams" unearths is that 21st century America (and the devastating economical effects of the most recent Bush Administration) hasn
t been kind to many in Lloyds age group (or any other age group for that matter.)  An older generation of men also face a quandary they want to spend their remaining time sharing their success or lack of it with the right woman at a stage where older women are frequently frustrated with the men in their age group.

Carol, like other women and men of a certain age, has become adjusted to and comfortable with living alone, which shes done for 20 years.  Still, the loneliness and heartbreak Carol endures sweeps and overwhelms us, and Ms. Danner makes use of that solitude and emotion with naked facial expressions and minimal gestures.  She sincerely owns and absorbs her existence and space in a thoroughly immersive way. 

Ms. Danner internalizes and centers Carol effortlessly.
  Quiet, patient and confident, in Carol Ms. Danner fashions one of her greatest performances.  It
s an exquisite joy to watch Ms. Danner work to preserve a woman trying to hold two decades of pain in place and beneath the surface.  Ms. Danner lends intelligence, proficiency and utter credibility in making Carol indelible, thoughtful and wise. 

Mr. Haleys direction accommodates Ms. Danners careful, open approach to Carol as an attractive, assured being who remains understandably guard.  Ms. Danner engineers Carol with a resonant display of a confident yet tentative woman encountering recurring aspects of her life.  I loved every moment of her performance and this film.  Carol appears at peace with how her life will likely end and appears mainly content, though some men including Bill (Sam Elliott), want to make sure she doesnt live out her days alone. 

Thankfully Ill See You In My Dreams isnt about Carol trying to find a man.  Carol mocks 21st century approaches to dating and disabuses Lloyd of any amorous intentions though theres undoubted sexual tension between them.  You make a great drinking buddy, Lloyd comments.  Carols trio of women friends encourage her to get on her bike but Carol remains fixed in her memories of what life has afforded her up to this point.  In truth, Mr. Haleys wonderful and sensitive film isnt really about age its about life and finding a way to relish it amidst adversity, while gaining footing and a measure of peace before the sun sets.

Also with: Rhea Perlman, Mary Kay Place, June Squibb.

"I'll See You In My Dreams" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association for sexual material, drug use and brief strong language.  Its running time is one hour and 46 minutes.

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