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‘Dreams’ depicts the nightmare of growing old

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REVIEW BY NATHAN LERNER
For Digital First Media

What’s it like to be a septuagenarian widow in 21st century America?

Carol Peterson (Blythe Danner), the protagonist of “I’ll See You In My Dreams,”  is a retired school teacher. Her husband died twenty years ago. She resides all alone in an immaculately maintained Los Angeles home, replete with a pool.

The sterility of her residence parallels that of her emotional life.  Carol is reconciled to the fact that she is a widow. Sharp-eyed viewers will notice a photograph in the background of Danner and her one-time husband, the late Bruce Paltrow, Hollywood producer and father of Gwyneth Paltrow.

Since her husband died, Carol hasn’t been involved with anyone special. She expresses an aversion to dating. As Carol explains, it’s just not for her.

Carol’s daughter, Katherine (Malin Akerman), lives out of town. They rarely see one another.

Carol’s social life seems to consists of little more than intermittently playing bridge with some old biddies, Georgina (June Squibb from “Nebraska”), Sally (Rhea Pearlman from “Cheers”), and Rona (Mary Kay Place from “Mary Hartman”). The trio live at a nearby assisted living center.

Carol seems to be content with her limited social life. However, when Carol’s dog, Hazel, becomes ill, she has to be put down. It throws Carol for a loop. Suddenly, she is suffused with an acute sense of loneliness.  It makes her more amenable to cultivating new relationships

A screen capture from a trailer to the film "I'll See You In My Dreams" at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1VbBOTXzfI

A screen capture from a trailer to the film “I’ll See You In My Dreams” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1VbBOTXzfI

Previously, Carol been snooty to her young pool guy, Lloyd (Martin Starr). Somewhat abruptly, she strikes up a conversation with him. Lloyd learns that Carol had been a singer in rock band. He convinces her to accompany him to a club to participate in karaoke night. Where is this relationship headed?

Meanwhile, Sally convinces Carol to join her at a speed dating session for old-timers. The vignette proves unsettling in its portrayal of a series of elderly male yutzes. Is that has Carol has to choose from?

One day, Carol is visiting her gal pals at the assisted living center. A cigar chomping resident, Bill (Sam Elliot), spots Carol in the parking lot. He likes what he sees and candidly tells Carol so. Bill owns a boat. Would Carol like to join him for a nautical jaunt some time?

At 72, Danner remains an attractive woman. It is often said that Hollywood doesn’t have any roles for women of a certain age. It is gratifying to see a film, which refutes this maxim. It is also nice to see an independent film made, which was the product of a kickstarter campaign.

That said, “I’ll See You In My Dreams” is a treacly affair. The emotions and relationships depicted in the film seem contrived. There is little narrative arc. “I’ll See You In My Dreams” seems to stumble aimlessly from scene to scene without any organic connection between them.

A screen capture from a trailer to the film "I'll See You In My Dreams" at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1VbBOTXzfI

A screen capture from a trailer to the film “I’ll See You In My Dreams” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1VbBOTXzfI

Following up on 2010’s “The New Year,” this is the sophomore effort by co-screenwriter/director, Brett Haley.  The writing is sloppy. Both Danner’s character and the veterinarian refer to Hazel with male pronouns. It may be a small thing to cavil about. However, how hard would it have been to recognize and correct? The film struggles unsuccessfully to find its tone.

I ordinarily like Danner as an actress and the intelligently rendered performances that she delivers. However, here her character is an aloof, cold fish with an offensive sense of class entitlement. By contrast, Sam Elliot is tremendous in the film. He continues to exude an unforced, roughhewn charm. It constitutes a stark contrast to the emotional detachment of Danner’s character.

What does life hold for people as they enter their euphemistically termed, Golden Years? “I’ll See You in My Dreams” offers a depressing perspective on the nightmare of growing old.

**1/2  PG-13 (for sexual material, drug use and brief strong) 92 minutes. Bleecker Street

Nathan Lerner sees over 200 feature films a year. He welcomes feedback at lernerprose@gmil.com.

 

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