TCC’s own Melissa Musick reviews the film “The Company You Keep” and concludes that, “it doesn’t pass the ‘aw c’mon’ test.” Read her whole review here:
Kudos to Robert Redford for making a movie for grownups. He directed and stars in “The Company You Keep,” and he manages to keep our interest without the use of explosions, rapes, car chases, superbugs, vampires, zombies, or werewolves.
Kudos, too, for trying to make a movie about sin and redemption. Even though he fails, and gives us a story that doesn’t pass the “aw c’mon” test, I appreciate the effort.
Not much about this story, set in 2011, is believable. Redford plays a lefty public interest lawyer, Jim Grant, a recent widower. (In the novel by Neil Gordon, on which the movie is based, Grant’s separated from his rich, crack head wife and they are both fighting for custody of their seven-year old daughter.) In the movie his daughter is eleven.
Let’s start there. He looks, in the scenes with his daughter, like her fit grandpa, not her father. This matters, because, behind the lawyer persona is his true identity as a former Weather Underground member, Nick Sloan, wanted for the murder of a bank guard during a Michigan robbery in 1980. It’s impossible not to do the math as the movie unfolds. What was a guy in his late thirties or early forties doing in the Weather Underground?
That false note leads to others. Grant is forced to go on the run after Sharon Solarz (Sarandon) is arrested while trying to turn herself in. Shia LeBeouf plays grasping reporter, Ben Shepherd, who smells a way out of his poky Albany paper and onto the national journalistic stage. As he begins his pursuit of the story, he uncovers Grant’s false identity and his ties to the robbery. Desperate to clear his name and keep custody of his daughter, Grant goes looking for Mimi Lurie (Christie) the only member of their four-person cell who can testify to his innocence. His journey involves lots of hiking, running, and sitting up all night on Amtrak trains. Not once, does Grant groan or struggle to get up or reach to massage a sore shoulder or hip. He eludes local cops as well as crack FBI teams like a fugitive gazelle.
The rest of the surviving cell — Christie as Mimi Lurie and Sarandon as Solarz — are, like Grant, fit, trim, good citizens caught up with a bad crowd. (They never fired a gun and the gunman is conveniently dead.) Solarz is Donna Reed with explosives, a stay-at-home mother who plotted her prison sentence to coincide with her kids leaving the nest, all the while hoping to get parole before the grandchildren arrive. Her surrender begins to look like one more item checked off a very full to-do list.
Lurie is a still-beautiful drug smuggler who lives in a mansion on the California coast with another old revolutionary turned stock trading wizard. (And, no, you don’t need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows: underground criminal joins the aboveground criminals and beats them at their own game.)
Never mind that, based on pictures of the houses where groups like The Symbionese Liberation Army hid, most fugitives find themselves in grim rentals near interstate highways and airports, these fugitives live in Big Sur and tidy Vermont. Great teeth, great hair, loyal friends, it’s been a good life except for that one thing: the dead bank guard and his widow and orphans, none of whom appear to make their own speeches. (One suspects the widow is overweight and wrinkled and looking every year of her age, and so, not fit for the big screen.)
The film’s climax is reached at Grant/Sloan and Lurie’s old hideout, a spot right out of The New York Times Travel Section. No filthy carpet and peeling linoleum for these two, they hunkered down in — just picture the headline — “Perfect Get-Away for Couple on the Run.” We sense a real story here, of what it means to lose one’s name and wander, rootless, for years, cut off from family and friends while shackled by the chains of a deliberate murder. By keeping his characters pretty, and never allowing us to encounter either the murderer or his victims, Redford misses the opportunity to ask the real questions floating just below the surface of the film he made.