I’ll See You In My Dreams (2015)
dir. Brett Haley
written by: Marc Basch, Brett Haley
starring: Blythe Danner, Martin Starr, Sam Elliott, Rhea Perlman, June Squibb, Mary Kay Place
3.25 out of 4 stars
I’m starting to believe that the love lives of older women are more interesting to me than most men in their late twenties. Give me Diane Keaton histrionics while trying to get her groove back, or Meryl playing meek with an inattentive husband, and I tend to gravitate to a heart warming place when these ladies get their grooves back. This summer Blythe Danner took to the screen with a starring role that brought the immense joy of her reawakening with a delightfully real story.
In I’ll See You In My Dreams, Danner plays Carol, a retired teacher widowed for twenty years and now facing more loss: her companion, an elderly golden retriever has to be put down. Even with the support of her friends, a spunky bunch of card playing ladies, Carol’s loneliness can’t be ignored. Along with befriending Lloyd (Martin Starr), the man who cleans her pool, she reenters the dating pool to disappointing results. Fortunately, the glut of older men is stymied by the suave, cigar smoking Bill (Sam Elliott), a man never married and living for the moment, however many he still has left. Carol allows herself to climb out of her rut and realize she still has things to learn, room to grow, and the ability to care.
Certainly, it doesn’t seem like the most original plot, but this film is measured and heartfelt. Blythe Danner, that Tony and Emmy award winning goddess, showcases her talents in her rarely ventured film career. Where many actresses in this role could play overly emotional, Danner allows Carol to feel every bit of her emotions without betraying a character balanced and in control. Carol is experienced in loss, and Danner knows how to maintain composure even at the character’s most distressed. Her performance is a delight from bantering with her friends, to sheer disappointment over speed dating, to realizing maybe there is someone out there. Additionally, her rendition of “Cry Me a River” has enough heart and memory floating through her that one can relive a life of memories without having every moment explained. Danner fascinates at every turn.
Playing her love interest, Sam Elliott is everything she could want, and more than the audience could expect. He is lived into this role, and I’m pretty sure he might just be playing himself, but goodness, he does it well. He is the childless, cigar smoking bachelor, but there is never an ounce of pretension or misogyny to be found. He steals every scene, a difficult task with such a fine leading lady, but it’s clear why Carol returns for more of this superb man.
The supporting cast is grand. Carol’s clan of elderly lady friends is perfectly cast. June Squibb is feisty, proving why she was so popular in Nebraska. Her brazen approach to vaping provides a fantastic laugh. Rhea Perlman is as always outgoing, and Mary Kay Place provides a nosy friend who does always care. Martin Starr is surprisingly friendly as a younger man befriended by his client. He makes a fantastic buddy for a woman who grows to realize that her life can be enriched by unexpected strangers. His off key performance of a handsome title song is touching in ways I didn’t originally suspect.
The script from Marc Basch and Brett Haley and the direction of Brett Haley deliver a fantastic debut. Their script holds humor and heart and a touching understanding of the aging dating experience unexpected from men with limited resumes. The avoid the prat falls and poor resolutions many similar films can experience, even those helmed by more experienced female writers and directors. In a film that could stand alone with the performances of an outstanding ensemble, their contribution to the tone and feeling of the film must be acknowledged.
I’ll See You in My Dreams likely won’t appeal to all. However, if one feels like having unexpected fun along with a warm yet sad story, this movie can provide that journey. Danner and Elliott will hopefully be remembered through the fall to awards season, as they are a charismatic duo with chemistry to burn. By far, two of the most affecting performance of the year.