So – it was old Jack and the women again. Off to the TV room we trundled, Melancholy Meg and Leery Liz up by the television, me further away and faintly grouchy because, you know, Robert Redford. He never did it for me, did it slightly too much for Mrs Jack and, why? I mean why? Doesn’t that faint air of leftie earnestness make you want to stab pandas? Or drill for oil in Kew Gardens? Or have a suit made called ‘Nearly Extinct, but I got the fucker’?
No, you say? The Company You Keep may make you.
In this, Le Redford plays Jim Grant, a lawyer who has a dark past as actually Nick Sloan, an activist in that “actor-and-activist fuck-wittery” way of millionaires who want us all to give to their charities. A bit like their political equivalents want us to all to give tax so their friends don’t. Which gets a mention in this film, given Redford and other implausibly still-healthy old folk (more of them below) were the Weather Movement (who knows?) who agitated on mainland America during Vietnam and the like. Their own government was putting them and their fellow nutjobs down, right or wrong, murdering and maiming, until the Weatherfolk were tipped into violence. The plot tells us – in grainy 1970s CCTV – there was a robbery and a security guard was killed. The activists all got away and created normal lives while the FBI felt dumb….
Incidentally, if you give this a go, have a sheet of paper to hand so you can try to work out what year it is, what year they were bad, just how old most of the characters are supposed to be, and just how old the cast are. Redford (birth year 1936) looked 110 at the time of filming, so when he is filmed jogging through parks and woodland, hands-dangling, shiny jacket plump from a hidden defibrillator, it make me think cold thoughts. And it makes Leery Liz run a finger up the screen.
To the plot: the rather gorgeous Susan Sarandon (birth year 1946) has had enough of hiding and gives herself up to the Feds. With the magnificently named Sharon Solarz off the scene, a hobbity Shia LaBeouf as an eager journo gets on the case and outpaces the Feds by finding the wire-tap victim in all this, then the man who refused to lawyer up for him (Redford), then – under a hail of Stanley Tucci‘s best exasperated Editor tics – works things out about Redford. All parties are stupid. There’s a moment when LaBeouf is researching Jim Grant (Redford) whilst sat with a picture of Nick Sloan (Redford) and doesn’t go – “oh, well, fuck me, that’s obvious.”
Thus recognised, Redford goes on the run. But – awwwww-time in the TV room – he’s a widower and has a charming and smartly dialogued 11-year-old, Isabel played by Jackie Evancho. So, he does a bizarre switcheroo in a major hotel with his long-missed brother (the splendid Chris Cooper dialling down the evil to genuinely-nice-uncle levels). This involves a fire alarm, needless close-ups of slippered crowds, and Redford slipping away in a baseball cap, the craggy chameleon. The Feds even chase him to exactly the right Metro platform because, you know, stupid but lucky. Redford and the cap are long gone.
Then the thing gets a bit weird. Redford travels the American map (okay, old Jack doesn’t get the geography – this could all have been over a five-mile radius), visiting the likes of Nick Nolte (birth year 1941) who gives him a car. Man, he needs a good cough.
Then on to the insanely likable Richard Jenkins (birth year 1947) as Jed Lewis, who would count success as never seeing Redford pulling this schtick again. Cough.
In the parallel storyline, journo LaBeouf is following a parallel path with Brendan Gleeson (birth year 1955) as the original detectiving officer, Henry Osborne…and it is now obvious that Redford is innocent of the original crime! Surprise! The hippie liberal is a sweetheart who saw sense! Meg and Liz hugged. Old Jack sighed and settled back for him to clear his name…
Look, there’ s a certain pleasure in watching Redford struggle to do the stuff he should have quit at 35. He works brilliantly with Evancho (albeit…come on…that’s Grandpa / Grandkid stuff), but the on-the-run fence jumping and jogging? No. Never again. Quit now.
There are also complexities in the plot that strain credulity and the willingness to think it through (spoilers – you shouldhave something to look forward to). But the film is efficiently, unshowily made (Redford also directs), and the roll call of top-notch talent keeps on coming. Julie Christie (aaaaahhhhhh……Lara…birth year 1940) returns in properly flattering light, jogging and smuggling with Redford-like energy. There to be loved and refuse to clear Redford’s name. Sam Elliott pops in to be smirky and charming. Terrence Howard earns acting kudos for balancing Tucci in the growly-boss stakes. Even Anna Kendrick pops by for exposition purposes.
The stand-out performances, funnily enough, come from the daughters of the film – Evancho is believable as an affectionate, wounded, then forgiving child; Brit Marling as Rebecca Osbourne does flirty, offended and shocked (in that order) whilst giving off the young-person smarts I remember from Jacketta’s first days at university.
All in all, a not-great but perfectly watchable diversion. Meg and Liz basked a little too eagerly in Redford’s topless scene, and I reflected on the vanity of people who have been told they and their beliefs are beautiful for way too many years.
Amazon Prime it.