The Company You Keep: a Film Review

The Company You Keep is flawed by major lacunae in time and space; the characters are (sorry) too old to be portraying their younger selves of the mid-70s, and that makes the entire fabric of the narrative rickety, as one kept assessing them today minus 30, the number of years they are reputedly separated from their earlier rebel anti-war, collateral killings of innocents, and building-blowing-up selves. These are people who have been hiding from the law since the lawlessness of their youths resulted in unsocial destruction and incidental murder. The FBI is all choked up trying to uncouple them from their new identities, loci, and professions.

Details of technology -- cell phones vs. very ancient computers on some of the newspaper's desks, brand names that are too new to have appeared when the film is supposedly emplaced -- bother one on a subliminal level (unless, as with me, they bothered on a top-surface level). NYC did not look like NYC. Details were wobbly and not realistic, and there were plot holes throughout that stuck out... also, for a longtime admirer of Julie Christie, I was struck by how poorly director Redford chose to light and shoot her -- none of the close-ups were flattering. None of the framing was particularly insightful or telling, and the film needed a lighter hand than it evidently got. The 11-year-old daughter is too naïve, being played too young for the advanced annoying sophistication of such a privileged child.

Even the daughters' age(s) bothered, as Redford, obviously in his 70s, was supposed to have had a child in his early 60s, we are asked to believe. His wife died some decade earlier, at 48. While we know of such folk, particularly among the Rodeo Drive privileged who forget how normal people live, it is still farfetched and needed some reference to explain or defend. We know that they are not young, and every shot of Redford gave a jolt of discomfort, as did the scenes with Sarandon. Nolte fared better than his accomplices, but he is a bit younger to begin with. The rationalizations in the text, and the position of the film itself, were laughably ridiculous and untenable, and yet the film, created and sustained and developed by a slew of anarchistic and left-wing former red rads and hippies, really tested my patience. We were hit over the head with their untenable, puerile philosophy, and even then, the ending betrayed the "thinking" extolled and massaged through the film.

How much resonance does this terrorist era of American druggie nutcases have for today's introverted, isolated youth and desperate, fiscally stressed adults?

In fact, I would wager that Mimi/Christie would NOT have given herself though importuned to by the Redford character -- the selfishness of the characters was well known. It was a pleasure to see Richard Jenkins, and LeBoeuf acquitted himself well. Anna Kendrick, a favorite, was underused, ignoring her gifts for fretfulness and ditz. Brendan Gleeson did Boston very well, as he does everything. The FBI just edged out self-caricature, Keystone cops-style, which I object to, and Stan Tucci had not enough to do. The ending left me cold. It ought to have gone into more depth as to what transpired with some of the loose ends of the other characters.

All in all, this project, though it would still have been irritating and subtly offensive, was meant to come out 20 years ago, when the political climate would not have been so polarized, and this story would not have blared out so false in its particulars. Or relevance.

If anything, one can analogize this little entry in nostalgia sweepstakes as a vanity press production -- Redford's clout and pelf paved the way for what, under an unknown, would not have migrated onto the silver screen. It will have a run for its money, but there are many more deserving entries for your Heritage tomatoes.

Most such films, packed with beloved stars and featuring picaresque venues in the West and East, are not quite so disappointing.

In the other hand, title is prologue: Robert and company keep their own, and forget to take the temperature of those not embubbled as they are in the weltanschuang of Hollywood & whine.