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Home / Articles / Entertainment / Screen /  All the president's meh
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Thursday, April 25,2013

All the president's meh

'The Company You Keep' is too sleepy for greatness

By Ryan Syrek

Although he may still be a panty dropper to the baby boomer set, Robert Redford looks like he needs a good nap. The bags under his eyes are scene-stealing, uncredited supporting actors in The Company You Keep, a ’70s-style thriller about investigative journalism that is neither thrilling nor investigatory. It can’t even sustain the indignation it clearly wants to unleash on the modern slacktivist journalism unwilling or unable to change the world because it would require more than a tweet or two.

Redford directs and stars as Jim Grant, a former member of The Weather Underground, an aggressive activist group that raged against the Vietnam War with explosive consequences. He’s been running from the law for decades, charged with the accidental murder of a security guard. When Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon) turns herself in, it puts small-time journo Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) on the case. This leads him to ask for help from an old girlfriend (Anna Kendrick), who has access to the main FBI agent on the case (Terrence Howard).

Defying his editor (Stanley Tucci), Ben soon identifies Jim’s brother (Chris Cooper), who is caring for his niece now that her daddy is on the lam. Jim’s former associates, Mimi Lurie ( Julie Christie), Jed Lewis (Richard Jenkins), Mac Macleod (Sam Elliott) and Donal Fitzgerald (Nick Nolte), all get sucked back into their former lives, some quite angrily. But none are grumpier than Henry Osborne (Brendan Gleeson), whose daughter (Brit Marling) may unintentionally be the key to figuring out what the hell actually happened.

This cast is so staggering, it wouldn’t have been out of place to see Meryl Streep show up as the maid silently cleaning Redford’s hotel room. In the ultimate act of directorial hubris, Redford keeps the action focus squarely around his boring, loosely jowled former provocateur-turned-single-dad. Centering the film around the least interesting character is not a highly recommended decision. Whether Lem Dobbs’ script is to blame or not, something is wrong when an audience finds itself actively desiring more LaBeouf.

Marling and Sarandon give standout performances, but mostly for naught. There is a sense early on that the film was going to follow an interesting intellectual path, asking if the generation that inherited the outrage of unjust war is completely impotent. Just as it looked like Ben was going to be the piņata for Redford’s continuing displeasure at America’s lethargic social activism, he lets him off the hook, and the film devolves into a simple “whodunit” that is modestly entertaining at best.

With Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom proving that you can still tell a story about modern journalistic integrity that is vital to our cultural psyche, The Company You Keep feels like a well-acted afterthought. By no means is it unwatchable or uninteresting; it is just somewhat exhausting. Speaking of exhaustion, if anyone has a cot for ole Sundance to lay down in and some cucumbers for his eyes, we’d all be much obliged.

— This review first appeared in The Reader of Omaha, Neb.

Rating: Two out of four stars

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REPLY TO THIS COMMENT

The continual cracks about how ooooold Redford is--really not funny. Just write the review without the gimmick of ageist bigotry.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT

You lose all credibility because you are basing judgements, spreading your tiny mind to us, based on someone's looks. Will you post a photo of you so we can disregard you based on what displeases us, please? Grow Up! Get a brain! And tell us about the art. Not the tiny minded reviewer. Gah! Oh, and good luck finding a fulfilling life with such low measures for what counts in life. I'd see this just to know I did not listen to YOU!

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT

Hey guys,

Sorry if you took a few quips as "ageist bigotry." I certainly don't mind older actors in roles. It was more about how he's aged a lot since he used to make movies like this. I assure you, I have nothing against old people. I want to be one! Lynda, I promise I didn't base the review on what Redford looked like. I'm kind of stunned you took it that extremely harsh, to be honest. I certainly don't judge anything by its looks. Except for spiders...because...ew. I can't speak to the size of my mind, but I promise you my opinion was based on content of cinema and not complexion. Thanks for reading! 

 

 
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