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Overall Rating

Awesome: 16.67%
Worth A Look58.33%
Just Average: 16.67%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
Sucks: 8.33%

1 review, 6 user ratings

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Company You Keep, The
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by Jay Seaver

"This cast is one heck of a fine company."
4 stars

"The Company You Keep" can play a bit like a brute-force attack at times - sure, it's kind of slow at times and eventually the audience winds up a couple steps ahead of the protagonist, but every ten or fifteen minutes, Robert Redford will throw another great actor from his generation at the audience, perfectly cast and with at least one scene that makes them warmly received. You can only take so much of this before wearing down and enjoying the movie quite a bit.

Decades ago, a bank guard was killed in a robbery carried out by Weather Underground members, and three of the four perpetrators got away. One, Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon), has just been captured on the way to turn herself in, and while she won't give any of the others up, both the FBI and young journalist Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) find a trail that leads to Jim Grant (Redford), a public-affairs attorney in upstate New York. As they get closer to sniffing out his secret, he starts looking for Mimi Lurie (Julie Christie), the member of this group of "Weathermen" that never settled down.

Grant's and Shepard's quests will take them halfway across the country, and while it may occasionally seem like it could be done in fewer steps, would you eliminate the ones where Richard Jenkins or Nick Nolte show up, so that their characters can reminisce with Redford's, debating about what they did back in the day and how it figures in their lives now before pointing him to the next stop? No, those scenes are gold. Maybe you could do without Shia LaBeouf's reporter, make this a more conventional thriller with Terrence Howard's FBI agent the main pursuer. But then you don't get the jailhouse interview where Sarandon's and LaBeouf's characters face off with their generations' different forms of principle - or at least, you'd have something very different with either Howard or Anna Kendrick (playing a junior agent) on the other side of the table.

And that's not even half the cast, who are uniformly impressive, even in smaller roles. You've got Stanley Tucci as Shephard's editor, embodying the struggle not to let journalism die without a fight while still coming across as professional. Chris Cooper plays Grant's brother, full of deep disagreement but also love and loyalty. Brendan Gleeson and Brit Marling show up halfway through as a father and daughter that Shepard has to fit into the puzzle, and they're pretty great, as usual. Even Jackie Evancho, the actress playing Grant's daughter, does a nice job (this may be her first film role, but she's apparently a musical prodigy used to performing). Stephen Root, a character actor who usually steals every scene he's in, almost gets lost here. Oh, and Sam Elliott shows up, too.

A lot of those are small roles, confined to one part of the movie or the other, but the three central performances are all strong. Robert Redford plays well within type, a smart guy who who has matured past his devil-may-care youth but still has a lively twinkle in his eye and is able to pass wisdom on as friendly advice rather than solemn pronouncements. Shia LaBeouf plays the character that Redford might have played back in the 1970s, charming and capable enough but a bit full of himself; for a guy who is easy to dismiss as lightweight for doing a lot of blockbusters that don't ask too much of him, he gets to work opposite a lot of impressive actors without getting demolished. And Julie Christie is just fantastic, playing Mimi as having lost none of her revolutionary zeal but having lived within this sort of life long enough that it's normal for her. She doesn't have as many chances to play off the rest of the cast directly, but the eventual on-screen pairing of her and Redford is well worth waiting for.

The screenplay by Lem Dobbs is not perfect; there are times when it feels as though Neil Gordon's original novel was set some ten years earlier and the adaptation doesn't quite get the revised dates to line up, which is a bit distracting. It works well enough as a mystery, with the audience generally only getting ahead of Shepard because we know this is a movie and things are likely to be connected, but not far enough for him to feel slow. He's smart to build it as mostly a series of two-person scenes (even if some have to be over the phone) that the cast can sink its teeth into, while Redford-the-director is able to let the cast do what they're good at, especially channeling his own best attributes as an actor and movie star without it becoming an egotistical thing. They get the audience from actors' piece to actors' piece without a lot of worry about procedural detail, and find a good balance between "our idealism was better than our kids' idealism" and "now I understand what is most important".

Coming down harder for one or the other might have made for a more forceful movie, but might also have made every conversation in it less interesting. And while there's an argument to be made that a few great performances are worth more than a lot of good ones, that doesn't take away from "The Company You Keep" having a lot of good actors going good work in a story that can use them.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=24116&reviewer=371
originally posted: 04/15/13 19:38:50
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/29/16 FireWithFire Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dorhn were,and still are, TRAITORS 1 stars
8/09/14 Domi Arcangeli Great movie, great cast with a luminous always strong Julie Christie! 5 stars
1/15/14 Bert I really liked this movie. 5 stars
12/15/13 Bill Barnowl Great review Jay. Enjoyable & thought provoking mve 4 stars
4/08/13 mr.mike Not bad, but it slows to a crawl near the end. 3 stars
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  05-Apr-2013 (R)
  DVD: 13-Aug-2013


  DVD: 13-Aug-2013

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