A new feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at “Transformers: the Last Night,” “The Hero’s” tale of redemption and the underwater terror of “47 Metres Down.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies including the eye scorching visuals of “Transformers: the Last Night,” “The Hero’s” tale of redemption and the underwater terror of “47 Metres Down.”
Sam Elliott, he of the easy drawl, smoky voice and horseshoe moustache, has made almost fifty films but has rarely ever been the above-the-title star. In “The Hero” he plays Lee Hayden, an aging Western film star, diagnosed with cancer. He’s in almost every frame, bringing an easy charm that solidifies his leading man status while smoothing over the film’s rough patches.
“The Hero” is a story of a man who can see the end of the road. Well known but underemployed and living off residual cheques from his heyday, the one time movie star now does voice overs for commercials to pay the bills. When he isn’t shilling for Lone Star BBQ Sauce—“The perfect pard’ner for your ribs.”—he’s smoking dope with his friend, former “Cattle Drive” co-star and drug dealer Jeremy (Nick Offerman). Through Jeremy the seventy-one-year-old meets Charlotte (Laura Prepon), a stand-up comic more than half his age.
As a new life of sorts is beginning with Charlotte a cancer diagnoses—“One of the worst you could hope for,” he says.—prompts him to look for a “chance to write another chapter” with his estranged daughter Lucy (Krysten Ritter) and possibly find some career defining work to leave behind as a legacy.
Writer/director Brett Haley knows how to make the most of Elliott’s weary but stately presence. The pair worked together on Haley’s last film, “I’ll See You In My Dreams,” another look at aging and legacy. Both films rely on clichés to forward their stories, but both films are saved by strong central performances from their stars—Blythe Danner in “I’ll See You In My Dreams,” Elliott in “the Hero”—who bring warmth and believability, not to mention high powered and often untapped star power, to their roles.
When the film falls into the romantic / comeback template already established by films like “Tender Mercies” and “The Wrestler,” Elliott’s quest for redemption keeps it from becoming a maudlin look at Hayden’s twilight years.
When I mention to Blythe Danner there is Academy Award buzz around her work as Carol, a widow taking tentative steps into the world of dating in the new film I’ll See You in My Dreams she says, “That, I find idiotic.” Long pause. “But thank you.”
Danner made her film debut in 1972, two years after she won a Best Supporting Actress Tony Award for Butterflies Are Free on Broadway. Since then she has amassed over one hundred film and television credits, including all three Meet the Parents movies and Sylvia, where she played the mother of Sylvia Plath as portrayed by her real life daughter Gwyneth Paltrow.
Remarkably I’ll See You in My Dreams is her first lead role on the big screen. She plays Carol, a widowed woman whose carefully constructed world is rattled when she starts dating Bill (Sam Elliott).
“I think it is a very underplayed role,” she says. “Yes, she runs the gamut of emotions but there is nothing that is very extreme in my playing of this role. It is heartening that people are touched by the whole film and if they are by my performance that is very flattering but I don’t see it as an Oscar worthy performance. I just don’t see it. The possibility seems absurd to me.”
The veteran actress admits to feeling uncomfortable accepting praise
“I do think there is something wrong with me. I really do. I’m very perverse. It may be the fact that I went to Quaker schools growing up. I grew up in a household where we were always told not to get a big head about being received positively. It’s the work that is important. My favourite thing when I played Nina in The Seagull was her speech at the end when she says, ‘I know now that it is not the fame and the glory that is important, but how to endure.’”
Danner’s wonderfully rendered portrayal of Carol is being called “quietly touching” by the New York Times and “deeply felt” by Variety but she credits writer, director Brett Haley with writing a script that was, “clear and accessible and simple.”
“It was all on the page,” she says. “I felt so grateful. I found it effortless. I feel a little guilty about saying that because it should have been harder. From the beginning to the end it was a gift.”
Moviegoers of a certain age can sometimes feel beaten up during the summer months. From “Avengers: Age of Ultron” to “San Andreas” it’s a loud and proud season that can sometimes feel foreign to anyone who came of age before everyone tweeted their every thought in 140 characters.
Every now and again a movie cuts through the blockbuster noise, quietly making its way into the theatre. This summer “I’ll See You in My Dreams” is that movie.
Blythe Danner is Carol, a widow and retired teacher. Single since her husband died twenty years before, she decides, at the urging of her friends (Rhea Perlman, Mary Kay Place, and June Squibb), to try her hand at dating.
She finds company in the form of two men, pool cleaner Lloyd (Martin Starr) who awakens her youthful side and Bill (Sam Elliott) a handsome, straight-talking septuagenarian who wines and dines her. Her first spots her in the vitamin aisle of a drug store. “You don’t need all that,” he says. “You’re just right the way you are.”
The relationships shake Carol’s carefully constructed world—she sings karaoke, smokes dope and gets moony—which are the beats almost every one of these “finding love after 65” movies have, except those other movies don’t have Danner and Elliott in the leads.
Too often relegated to supporting parts—unbelievably this is Danner’s first big screen leading role—these two are the beating heart of the story and could get by on charisma alone, but writer-director Brett Haley doesn’t simply rely on his stars to carry the day. He has supplied them with a story that could easily have fallen into hackneyed silver fox clichés but avoids them by not shying away from real talk about aging and romance.
For older audiences “I’ll See You in My Dreams” is just what the doctor ordered, an antidote to “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”