Tuesday, May 12, 2015

“I’ll See You In My Dreams”– Movie Review



This week, I attended a New York Times Film Club screening of the new comedy-drama, “I’ll See You In My Dreams”, starring Blythe Danner and Sam Elliott. 


When a woman’s world is turned upside down after suffering personal losses, will an unexpected romance convince her there is another chapter in her life?


Recently forced to put her beloved dog to sleep, Carol (Danner) suddenly finds herself more alone now than ever before.  Between spending the past 20 years as a widow and her daughter Katherine (Malin Akerman) living out of town, Carol is understandably feeling there’s nothing left for her in life.  As a result, Carol’s days are filled with either sipping Chardonnay or playing bridge with her gal pals (Rhea Perlman, June Squibb and Mary Kay Place).  So, it comes as something of a shock that Lloyd (Martin Starr), her new pool cleaner, takes a sudden interest in her. 

Despite a vast age difference, Carol and Lloyd bond over their mutual love of music.  Soon, the two forge a friendship that has all the appearances of possibly blossoming into a romance.  Although having affection for Lloyd, Carol hesitates to take it to the next level precisely because of the fact that she’s nearly twice his age might; the thought of being labeled a “cougar” doesn’t exactly appeal to her.  It is around this time that Bill (Elliott) runs into her at a pharmacy and proceeds to hit on her; after a few chance meetings at various spots around town, Carol agrees to go out on a date with him.

It takes only a few dates, but it is soon clear to both of them that they are hitting it off; excited at the prospect of a new romance so late in life, they agree to see each other with increasing frequency.  The problem with their plan is Lloyd; when he learns Carol is seeing Bill on a somewhat regular basis, he’s quite disappointed – perhaps even a little heartbroken because Lloyd sincerely believed he had a chance with Carol.  With Lloyd lurking in the background, will Carol be able to continue exploring a relationship with Bill or will Lloyd try to break them up? 


“I’ll See You In My Dreams” tries to build on the relatively recent success of movies like “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” by appealing to the geriatric set with late-in-life romantic adventures.  Unfortunately, it ultimately gets derailed by its own cloying cuteness and plot contrivances.  As an example, there’s a scene where Carol and her bridge buddies get high on medical marijuana!  Really?  In an effort to extend the joke – already built on a rather flimsy premise – they get stopped by a policeman when he spots them pushing a shopping cart full of munchies back to Carol’s place. 

The ability to suspend your disbelief beyond any reasonable degree combined with immunity to an utterly relentless succession of clichés are what an audience will need in order to get through a viewing of “I’ll See You In My Dreams”.  The movie isn’t about aging so much as dealing with life’s various challenges, no matter what your age; this is certainly a noble theme to plumb, but the film’s material turns out to be less than capable of the task.  As a comedy, it’s mildly amusing at best, often relying on old tricks to get laughs; as a drama, it also depends heavily on trite plotting. 

Following the screening, there was a question-and-answer session with the movie’s director and co-writer, Brett Haley, as well as some of its stars – Blythe Danner, Sam Elliott and Rhea Perlman.  Haley said that this screenplay was rejected by just about everyone in Hollywood, but that didn’t stop him from trying to get the film made; in the end, it was produced as an independent with a small budget (partly through Kickstarter funding) and wound up having only an 18 day shooting schedule.  Danner said she loved the script but expected only to be offered a role as one of the bridge-playing cohorts; she was delighted when she was asked to play the role of Carol, but knew it would be demanding because the character is in nearly every scene. 

I'll See You in My Dreams (2015) on IMDb

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