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Can Robert Redford be relevant again? Sony Classics says 'yes'

August 24, 2012|By Glenn Whipp
  • Robert Redford's latest directorial effort is the political thriller "The Company You Keep."
Robert Redford's latest directorial effort is the political thriller… (Kristina Loggia )

The 21st century has so far seen the release of three movies directed by Robert Redford: "The Legend of Bagger Vance," "Lions for Lambs" and "The Conspirator."

So this morning's news that Sony Pictures Classics has picked up the Oscar-winning director's latest, the political thriller "The Company You Keep," prompted a question for SPC Co-president Tom Bernard.

Can Redford be relevant again?

"This movie has the potential to re-establish him," Bernard says of the film, which focuses on a former Weather Underground militant (Redford) who goes on the run after he's exposed by a young reporter (Shia LaBeouf).

"It's a movie with a lot to say," Bernard adds, "and I think that movies with a lot to say are working in the specialized arena. You see Woody Allen's movies perform like they haven't performed in years. People are looking for smart movies."

Bernard's company, which he co-founded with Michael Barker in 1992, has benefited from that hunger, riding Allen's 2011 comedy "Midnight in Paris" to the highest box-office gross in the director's long career.

Bernard believes that with its multi-generational cast, "The Company You Keep" has the potential to become a commercial success as well. In addition to Redford and LaBeouf, the movie features Susan Sarandon and Julie Christie as former Underground members, as well as 12-year-old singer Jackie Evancho, playing Redford's daughter.

"It's a story that brings two generations together, the generation of the '60s and the present day, highlighting both the different types of issues and showing how a lot of the issues remain the same."

And, perhaps most important, it's not as talky as "Lions for Lambs" or "The Conspirator," movies that critics and audiences alike rejected.

"It's a mystery and an exciting thriller," Bernard says. "And it's smart in the way it contrasts the ways people took action back then and how different it is today."

We'll soon know whether Redford has found his fastball again. "The Company You Keep" will play at both the upcoming Venice and Toronto film festivals, key launching pads for the awards season. No U.S. release date has been set as of yet.

Follow Glenn Whipp on Twitter: @glennwhipp


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