The Company You Keep

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company you keep

One of my favorite actress/screenwriters — Brit Marling, being badgered by reporter Shia LaBeouf.

Susan Sarandon plays Sharon Solarz, a former activist and member of the Weather Underground. She’s charged with a murder during a bank robbery over 30 years ago, and now that her kids are out of the house, she’s turning herself in. Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) is the young reporter that she agrees to talk to, despite the reluctance of the FBI agent (Terrence Howard). He starts to uncover what might be a bigger story, which means…we get to see the usual movie clichés. His house is broken into and ransacked. He calls an old girlfriend for a favor, and charms a possible new girlfriend (Brit Marling) for info.

Robert Redford directed and stars in this, and it’s the first movie of his I ever watched and thought – wow, his acting isn’t up to snuff. In a few other scenes we see him running, and wonder if he could possibly have a heart attack. Yes, it’s safe to say that he doesn’t pull off being the father of a 12-year-old so well (he’s 76 in real life).

There are problems with other cast members, too. Anna Kendrick’s youthfulness worked in 50/50, because Joseph Gordon-Levitt is supposed to be bothered by how young she is. In Up in the Air it works, because she’s supposed to be wet-behind-the-ears and surprised by George Clooney’s actions. In this, it’s just odd. She looks like a 16-year-old girl as she’s being yelled at by Howard.

The other gripe I have with the casting is Julie Christie (Doctor Zhivago, McCabe & Mrs. Miller). It’s great to see her on screen again. I adored her in Heaven Can Wait, but the woman I was with leaned in and said to me “Look at all the work she’s had done on her face.” I was thinking the same thing. And really…if you’re playing this ‘60s radical that hated the system (she is an activist for a few causes in real life)… you shouldn’t look like you went and had work done. I’d think you’re more likely to have hairy armpits than big lips.

Some might also be bothered by Nick Nolte sounding like he had a mouthful of marbles. His character worked for who he played, though.

Now, as much as I just complained about some casting choices, this will easily be the best cast you see in a film all year. It includes Chris Cooper playing Redford’s younger brother, Stanley Tucci as the editor at the newspaper, Brendan Gleeson as a cop with secrets, Sam Elliot as an old hippie living with Christie, Stephen Root as a pot dealer, Richard Jenkins as a college professor, and an actress that writes the best films around – Brit Marling, playing the daughter of Gleeson.

Redford plays a lawyer who has his cover blown by a local reporter. He was once a member of the radical group Sarandon was a part of. He drops his daughter off with his brother, and tries to track Christie down to help clear his name. And I have to admit, there are times when the dialogue could’ve been better. That being said, I thought the movie was well-paced. I thought of Redford’s interesting Three Days of the Condor. You can have a thriller that is thrilling when things are going on other than car chases and gun fights.

People are either going to love this movie or hate it. I liked it, because I was never bored watching it. The strong cast certainly helps. There were scenes with Redford and LaBeouf that were great. A scene with Tucci and LaBeouf is strong, even if the journalism portrayed here is odd to figure out. I won’t go into that, as every profession portrayed on screen isn’t usually accurate (just ask any cop). I do wonder if anybody in the film industry does realize that saying “this is off the record” isn’t a legally enforceable statement. Oh, and speaking of the film industry…they’ve got to stop with the 555 phone numbers. This movie had more than any movie I’ve ever seen, and it always takes you right out of the picture.

You don’t want to spend too much time wondering why we’re rooting for leftwing activists that blow up buildings and shoot people during bank robberies (and it’s never really explained what good they’re doing by partaking in such actions). You don’t want to analyze the ages of a couple that have a daughter that’s still in college. Just kick back and watch this thriller, enjoy the great acting, and if you occasionally laugh at the unintentional moments…that’s fine too (one that comes to mind is Nolte saying, in a voice that sounds like too many cigarettes and beers, “We all died. Some of us just came back!”)

I’m giving this 3 ½ stars out of 5.