I do not see the point of writing bad reviews here. I'm not a paid reviewer. I write about what I want to write about. So, I've been always sticking to the positive...for the most part. And this is a positive review of The Company You Keep. Or better stated, half a positive review. Let's call this one ANATOMY OF HALF A GREAT MOVIE.
Starting off, you have Academy Award winning director Robert Redford at the helm behind the camera and in front of it. Then you have a stellar supporting cast of both big names (Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte...) and character actors including Stanley Tucci, Richard Jenkins, Terrance Howard, and the always wonderful Brendan Gleeson.
So right there, this one has a lot of potential. The story starts off with a woman turning herself into the police after being "on the run," so to speak, from law enforcement for three decades. She was part of a 1960s group of radicals who robbed banks for their political cause and at their last robbery, killed a bank guard. Enter Redford’s lawyer character who is inexplicably tied up with this woman and the cause.
I still remember thinking while watching Lions for Lambs (directed and starring Redford in 2007) that I would rather be ANYWHERE other than in that movie theater. But, unlike Lions, The Company You Keep starts off as a good movie and within the first hour, amounts to a great movie. The setting of the plot is slow and deliberate, but paced well enough where it is never too slow. And the set up of all of the characters is well constructed. I had high, high hopes for a truly great film experience.
Then, it happened. It’s what happens to many movies. The greatness fades and it is replaced with a dull, monotonous, predictable thud.
And it doesn't only happen in the movies. How often am I reading a book and all of sudden, I have completely lost all interest, because the story fell off somewhere and is replaced with monotonic crap. Well, this is the prime example of that.
So, what is it that happens? Why is this not a great movie...front start to finish? If it were any other filmmaker, I would blame the screenplay (this film is based on a novel so it is not an original script). But having had this experience with Redford films before...especially those of late…I would have to point the finger at the director here.
As I learned with the completely agonizing from-start-to-finish film Lions for Lambs, Redford likes to direct with a political agenda. Fine. A lot of directors do that and can get away with it...Clint Eastwood for one. And I'm not talking about politics specifically (which is what Lions was all about). I'm talking about the espousing and the proselytizing that continues to ruin Redford movies of late.
His last directorial effort, The Conspirator (2010), about the days and consequences after the Abraham Lincoln assassination, was good but it would have been excellent had Redford kept to the story. And that's what is needed here. Company had an excellent base story. But it just fell apart with its own sanctimony in the end. Now, I have not read the book the movie is based on. Maybe the failings of the plot are directly from the novel. But if so, Redford, a very talented actor and director, should have been able to fill those holes and kept the plot moving like it does in the beginning...tense, taut, riveting. Instead, the ending is predictable, trite and even a little maudlin.
So, is this a positive review? Yes. Watch the film for a fantastic first hour of brilliant story plotting and character development. Then, go get some popcorn during hour two.
The Company You Keep: 2012, rated R, 121 minutes, directed by Robert Redford, starring Robert Redford, Shia LaBeouf, Julie Christie, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Chris Cooper, Nick Nolte, Terrance Howard, Brendan Gleeson, Richard Jenkins, Brit Marling, Anna Kendrick, Jackie Evancho and Sam Elliott.
About this column: Cecilia Cygnar, the Niles Public Library's Film Specialist, reviews films in the library's collection.