I’ll See You in My Dreams (2015)
Directed by Brett Haley
At a time when it’s becoming rare to see women over a certain age land leading Hollywood roles, especially in romances, we revel at the sight of 40-year big-screen veteran Blythe Danner dazzle in “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” the beautiful little picture from rookie director Brett Haley. Her nuanced, scene-stealing performance catapults this little underdog of a story to excellence.
Twenty years after the early death of her husband, septuagenarian Carol Peterson (Danner) has seemingly settled in life. She drinks wine, naps, and plays bridge with her hilarious group of gal pals (June Squibb, Rhea Perlman, and Mary Kay Place). She sees her daughter (Malin Akerman), who lives thousands of miles away in New York, only every so often. After the new pool boy, Lloyd (Martin Starr), asks about Carol’s musical history, they go to a karaoke bar together. That’s a change. But it’s the arrival of Bill (Sam Elliott), a plucky straight-shooter who shows immediate interest in Carol, that shakes up her life the most. Years after she settled into this funk, Carol finally has the chance to start her life anew.
Blythe Danner, Golden Globe and Emmy nominee, is at the height of her glory. Ultimately, she appears comfortable in her role, a role not unlike Annie Hall or another one of those independent, girl power era Woody Allen characters. There doesn’t seem to be any pressure on her. A role so reasonable and normal probably doesn’t require much extra effort. Carol is entirely level-headed, not pigeonholed into any of Hollywood’s popular “old lady” archetypes. It’s refreshing, and Blythe Danner is delightful. Sam Elliott, with his own four decades of film experience, is Danner’s equal. Their decades of experience is much more of a precursor to the overall success of “I’ll See You in My Dreams” than the very minimal experience of the writer and writer-director. Unfortunately, it’s the youngest member of the cast, Martin Starr, who seems to lack some personality. His sometimes monotonous delivery seems out of place in a film so in touch with the comforts of life.
“I’ll See You in My Dreams” has a soft, slow story arc, without much conflict. It’s less plot-driven than most films, instead letting Danner take the wheel. She handles her role with grace. It’s been said that 70 is the new 50—but, truthfully, I’ll take these 70-year-olds any day. They know how to make a movie the right way. “I’ll See You in My Dreams” is just the latest example.