I'll See You in My Dreams

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 05/22/15 12:50:24

"Always nice to see veterans getting something good to do."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

SCREENED AT INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL BOSTON 2015: Thing to ponder: I can put a note in my phone or computer that says "revisit 'I'll See You In My Dreams' twenty-five years from now", and it could follow me from device to device over that time, and it will actually remind me to give this movie I liked well enough in 2015 another look with the proper amount of life experience. I like it; I'd like to see how much it speaks to me at that age.

It focuses on Carol Petersen (Blythe Danner), an independent widow in southern California. Though best friend Sally (Rhea Perlman) and the rest of their bridge game (June Squibb & Mary Kay Place) live in a nearby retirement community, she's still in her own home, which has its minuses, such as when a rat startles her into sleeping on the back porch. New pool cleaner Lloyd (Martin Starr) finds her and strikes up an unlikely friendship, later meeting up for karaoke. She and the new guy at the complex, Bill (Sam Elliott), also catch each other's eyes.

And that's kind of where things stay, for the most part; this isn't really about building to something as much getting snippets of Carol's life at what's not exactly a turning point but is maybe the most interesting it's been in a while. There are bits that could probably be popped out of the movie with little damage and others that have a bit of padding around moments that nudge things forward. It's a pace that can aptly be called "retiring", not exactly slow but with even the significant moments a bit muted. These people are at a point in their life where disastrous decisions are likely, and the movie reflects this.

A great deal of that feeling of amiable stability comes from Blythe Danner. Director Brett Haley and Marc Basch give Carol a backstory that is modest but interesting, along with a present that makes her just interesting enough to build a movie around, and Danner portrays her as mostly comfortable but with hints of prickliness; it's not the impatient restlessness of youth, but she gives off the sense of knowing she could be doing more, even as she feels comfortable and assured. Carol is imperfect in a lot of ways, but Danner keeps her from seeming too much the curmudgeon.

It doesn't hurt that she's got a lot of good folks to work with on-screen, and it's not just a matter of older folks getting a rare chance to shine: Martin Starr delivers a dryly funny performance as Lloyd, as if he's perpetually confused by being drawn to this older woman and not sure he's going to be part of some cougar fantasy, while Malin Akerman becomes a sunny presence as Carol's visiting daughter later on. But, yes, it is a whole lot of fun to see some of the rest of the supporting cast. Rhea Perlman, in particular, is someone I didn't realize I'd missed seeing on a regular basis until seeing her as Carol's brassy best friend, with June Squibb and Mary Kay Place filling out the scenes that work better with a lot of voices going back and forth nicely. And then there's Sam Elliott, who brings an easy confidence that seems like it would be a natural product of being Sam Elliott to the screen. Bill isn't much like the Elliott's usual rugged persona, but he's got the same sort of certainty that makes a good contrast to Carol without diminishing her.

Haley directs with a sure hand, not doing much that's obviously fancy but moving it along, letting the film be fairly funny without making a joke of the more serious elements. It's a good little movie, one which probably rings true for the under-represented people who see themselves on-screen, and is fairly entertaining for those of us not there yet.

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