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Robert Redford looks to keep 'Marigold' company

Toronto International Film Festival

September 13, 2012|By Steven Zeitchik
  • Robert Redford in "The Company You Keep."
Robert Redford in "The Company You Keep."

There are a number of political angles worth discussing in Robert Redford's "The Company You Keep," which tries, sometimes murkily, to look at radicalism in the 1960s through a 21st century lens. The thriller-drama, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this week, also offers the prospect of Shia LaBeouf as a cocky reporter (you know you've been wanting it).

But there's a different, possibly more voguish story line in the movie, one about older people finding redemption. Redford plays a man who must confront the actions of his younger self and make peace with or repudiate them.

Similar conflicts of course propelled "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" to phenomenon status last spring. Several other titles, like Clint Eastwood's "The Trouble With the Curve," soon hope to follow suit. "Company You Keep," which Sony Pictures Classics will release next year, offers its own spin on the geezer subgenre.

PHOTOS: Toronto International Film Festival 2012

Redford plays Nick Sloan, a former Weather Underground radical who was involved in an attack that turned deadly in his younger years. Sloan has been living under an assumed identity for 30 years when he's flushed out by LaBeouf's reporter. That sets the former radical on the run, mainly from the FBI, which devotes a surprising amount of urgency and manpower to the chase.

Much of the movie has Sloan sneaking around the country meeting former radicals so he can track down an old flame who, for reasons unclear, can help him out of his pickle. The movie slows down every time Sloan reaches one of said friends (played by Richard Jenkins and a host of other stalwarts) so they can talk about the bad ol' days -- what they did, why they did it, was it right to do, should they have gone further. It's the talkiest version of "The Fugitive" you could imagine.

In the end, though, the movie is as much about an older man coming to terms with his choices as it is anything political. That's a staple of the new geezer cinema, and, I suppose, a cathartic subject for the big screen, if hardly an original one.

Whether that alone is enough to drive an AARP-led charge to theaters for "Company" is less clear. "Marigold's" hidden genius was that audience members could see themselves in one or more of the main characters. It's not clear Redford's why-we-were-radicals navel-gazing will have the same resonance.

Still, don't bet against any movie that has older people wrestling with their pasts (and, equally critical for its prospects, finding their futures). Television often steers far away from older audiences and their unfriendly advertising rates. The film world these days can't get enough.

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Follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

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