Synopsis: A widow and former songstress discovers that life can begin anew at any age.
Release Date: May 22, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Comedy, Drama
A little context is in order before getting into a review of I’ll See You in My Dreams. I am old enough to have waited in line to see the original Star Wars during its initial theatrical run. My mom used to take me and my sister to see Grease every Saturday afternoon when tickets were only two dollars just to spend a few hours in an air conditioned theater. For me, Roger Moore is James Bond. The point is, I’m no spring chicken. Still, I was the youngest person in attendance at my particular promotional screening of I’ll See You in My Dreams. So, that should give you a little idea of the expected demographic for the film.
I’ll See You in My Dreams is about a widowed ex-singer named Carol Petersen (Blythe Danner from Meet the Parents) who still manages to live on her own despite getting pressure from her circle of friends to move into their retirement community. Although she’s not willing to give up her independence, Carol does get lonely, and makes friends with her pool cleaner, a struggling musician named Lloyd (Martin Starr from the This Is the End/Knocked Up crowd). She also catches the eye of a handsome stranger named Bill (The Big Lebowski‘s Sam Elliott), whom she reluctantly starts dating. Carol balances her self-imposed exile from the world with her desire to enjoy life, but the constant reminder of Father Time is always rearing its ugly head.
I’ll See You in My Dreams was directed by Brett Haley (The New Year) from a script written by him and Marc Basch, his writing partner/idea bouncer. To call it a “character-driven” movie is a nice way of saying that not much happens. And, one wants to be nice about that fact, because despite how charming it can be and how spot-on the acting is, it’s still a dreadfully bland movie. It just kind of meddles along without much happening and without any conflict in the story. The film does pull at the heartstrings some; the opening scene has Carol putting her dog down due to old age, symbolically illustrating to her (and to us) that time stops for no one, human or animal. It also has a small handful of laughs, as when Carol repeatedly calls an exterminator to rid her house of a rat that keeps eluding capture. But, for the most part, I’ll See You in My Dreams is a pretty boring affair. However, it’s polite enough about its boringness for me to not want to be mean to it in this review.
Getting back to the movie’s target audience: it’s entirely possible that I’ll See You in My Dreams was just not made for me. It’s well-crafted enough for me to believe that it has an audience out there. It’s just that, for me personally, I felt little connection to any of the characters, even though they were likeable enough and portrayed convincingly by the experienced cast. It’s got plenty of great elements to it, but I’ll See You in My Dreams is just not my thing. Maybe it’s yours?
It’s no surprise that Blythe Danner can bring her A-game to a movie like I’ll See You in My Dreams. What is surprising is the flawless chemistry within the entire ensemble; the film is perfectly cast. Danner and Sam Elliott have a comfortable give-and-take between them that is a pleasure to watch. Carol’s knitting-circle Bridge group, a quartet of ladies that includes Danner and experienced actresses Rhea Perlman (“Cheers”), Mary Kay Place (“Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman”), and June Squibb (Nebraska), work very well together, acting as if they’ve known each other for years (and maybe they have – they’re that convincing). Martin Starr and Danner also have their own kind of chemistry, her feeding off of his inherent nervousness and him trying to act cool in front of her. Even Malin Akerman (Watchmen), who only has a very small role as Carol’s daughter, Kat, is believable in her limited screen time when put opposite Danner. Blythe Danner is the glue, but every member of the cast in I’ll See You in My Dreams does their part to hold the film together.
There are some interesting musical selections in I’ll See You in My Dreams. For a movie that is essentially about a group of senior citizens, it’s got a surprisingly youthful soundtrack which includes songs by hip indie bands like Owlbiter, The Head and the Heart, and Alvvays. Of course, these whippersnappers are balanced out by a few tracks from the likes of Etta James and The Rascals, and there’s some middle ground to be found in Carol and Lloyd’s karaoke selections (“Cry Me a River” for her, “I Think We’re Alone Now” for him). The wild card to the soundtrack is the film’s original title song, a cool little ukulele-and-vocal tune written by score composer Keegan DeWitt (Listen Up Philip, Land Ho!) that bridges the age gap between Carol and Lloyd. The musical selections in I’ll See You in My Dreams are a little eclectic, but they fit the movie pretty nicely.
It purports to be a comedy, but there’s not much that’s funny about I’ll See You in My Dreams. A majority of the funny bits are supplied by Carol’s Bridge Buddies, and it’s mostly witty wordplay, the gals verbally sparring and lovingly insulting each other as they half-argue like the old friends that they are. There’s one scene where the four ladies partake in some medicinal marijuana, and while a bit predictable and following of all stoner movie stereotypes, it’s still pretty funny to see it acted out by a group of grandmas. There are other chuckles here and there – Bill’s nonchalant attitude towards everything, Lloyd’s uncomfortable exchanges with Carol, the rat that stalks Carol in her house – but most of the good laughs in I’ll See You in My Dreams come from the chemistry between the four friends as they try to recapture their collective youth.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Brett Haley
- Screenwriter(s): Brett HaleyMarc Basch
- Cast: Blythe DannerSam ElliottMartin Starr June SquibbRhea PerlmanMary Kay PlaceMalin Akerman
- Editor(s): Brett Haley
- Cinematographer: Rob Givens
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Mirren Gordon-Crozier
- Casting Director(s): Emily Schweber
- Music Score: Keegan DeWitt
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA