Filing from the Venice Film Festival, Variety‘s Leslie Felperin isn’t exactly doing cartwheels for Robert Redford‘s The Company You Keep, but she’s in a respectful and approving frame of mind. Calling it an “unabashedly heartfelt but competent tribute to 1960s idealism [in which] nostalgia is generally the order of the day,” pic is “not entirely filtered through rose-colored granny glasses.”
“Screenwriter Lem Dobbs, adapting Neil Gordon’s novel, has something of track record with this sort of material, having written Steven Soderbergh‘s The Limey (1999), another tale about ’60s survivors haunted by its thesps’ own filmographies. Like that film, all plot roads lead to a young woman whose honor must be defended, in this case Brit Marling‘s smart love-interest law student, who upstages Shia LaBeouf.
The Company You Keep “is nowhere near as formally audacious as Soderbergh’s film, but in its stolid, old-fashioned way, it satisfies an appetite, especially among mature auds, for dialogue- and character-driven drama that gets into issues without getting too bogged down in verbiage.
“There is something undeniably compelling, perhaps even romantic, about America’s ’60s radicals and the compromises they did or didn’t make, a subject underexplored in Hollywood cinema apart from honorable exceptions like Sidney Lumet‘s Running on Empty (1988) and a few others. The French, meanwhile, have almost completely monopolized radical chic nostalgia, as seen in this pic’s Venice-fest competish rival, Olivier Assayas‘ Something in the Air.
Keep‘s “colorful, almost-wastefully impressive cast limns a sociologically convincing rogue’s gallery of reformed revolutionaries — some turned organic farmer, like the one played by Stephen Root (refreshingly cast against usual nerdy type); or university professor (Richard Jenkins) or Nick Nolte‘s small businessman, a cleaned-up acid casualty. The last, a brief but memorable turn, harks pleasingly back to Nolte’s blasted ‘Nam vet in Who’ll Stop the Rain.”