I feel like I should post a "trigger warning" up front here for I'll See You In My Dreams, but I can't do that without a spoiler so let me just say: As you might expect in any movie involving the retired set, there will be some death. One death you might not be expecting might be especially...traumatic.
Anyway, this is a film about Carol (Blythe Danner), a septuagenarian widow whose husband died 20 years ago, and how she never really recovered from that. She lives her life in a quiet routine, not inactive, exactly, but sort-of routine-as-shield.
Her life starts to change when a rat appearing in her house forces her to sleep outside (which you can do in Studio City, where the movie takes place), and she wakes to a new pool guy, Lloyd, with whom she strikes up a friendship. Lloyd is a youngish man who gave up on his musical dreams in Austin to move back in with his Mom in L.A.
Meanwhile, while shopping for vitamins for the vague purpose of "not wanting to be missing anything", a tall, handsome stranger tells her she doesn't need them, since she's perfect the way she is. Said stranger being none other than The Stranger himself, Sam Elliot.
And, hey, if your heart doesn't flutter when Sam Elliot tells you you're perfect, even if you're a guy, your problem isn't that you're not gay, it's that you're dead. Seriously, he plays this as a perfect alpha male, charmed and charming, assertive but not obnoxious. It's not an easy gig. Unless you're Sam Elliot.
There's a comical scene when Carol's cronies (played by Rhea Perlman, June Squibb and Mary Kay Place) talk her into a nice 40 Year Old Virgin-style speed-dating riff. Some of these actors are going to look familiar (like "Barney Miller"'s Max Gail, who's been working constantly since then but whom I don't see often) and a lot of them—not just here, but throughout the movie—seem like maybe they were just natives pulled off the actual location.
And not in a bad way, either. Just a kind of cool, natural-seeming thing.
So, throughout the movie, we get a picture of Carol, from her friends, from her daughter (played by Malin Akerman of Watchmen), and through Bill's (Elliot) eyes. Elliot just has to be charming, and Danner's co-stars get to be fun, believable characters (which they do well), but Danner has to be subtly broken in a kind of terrible way while still being relatable and empathetic.
I'd say she did a great job. The other guy who has a similar role is the pool guy, played by Martin Starr (of "Freaks and Geeks" and last seen playing himself in This Is The End). He's also broken in a not very appealing way, but manages to be empathetic.
It's not really chock-full of wisdom. I liked the rat, which was pretty obviously a metaphor but not a super ham-handed one, and I like it when writers do something like that can work believably as a real thing.
I enjoyed it. The Boy, on the other hand, was unimpressed. It didn't grip him, he said, which is fair enough. It's not really meant to be a gripping film. It was also, you know, about old people, of which he's not one, and low-key, which when he's slightly under the weather (as he was) can make him that much harder to grab.
I thought it was particularly poignant, if inside baseball, that the picture on the mantle of Carol in younger days, with her husband and daughter was actually of her late husband (Bruce Paltrow, d. 2002) and Gwynneth.
Writer/director Brett Haley and co-writer Marc Basch have made a nice little movie/showcase for the perennially lovely Ms. Danner. Worth checking out.