Counterpunch Weekend Edition March 29-31, 2013
Robert Redford’s Libels Against the American Left (and Film-Making)
by LOUIS PROYECT
Of the 647 film reviews I’ve written over the past 13 years, most cover political documentaries. When I review a narrative film, it is often about one made in a neorealist style with nonprofessional actors. My goal is to create a consumer’s guide for a leftwing audience more than anything else. When I review the occasional Hollywood film, it is in the hope that it will be something of substance. More often than not, as was the case with “Django Unchained” or “Lincoln”, I walk out of a press screening scratching my head muttering to myself, “What was I supposed to get out of that?”
Once in a blue moon, I go to a film with zero expectations, mostly out of a feeling that I have a job to do akin to taking out the garbage or cleaning the toilet. That was the case with “The Company You Keep” that opens on April fifth just about everywhere given its pedigree. From the publicist’s email:
Jim Grant (Robert Redford) is a public interest lawyer and single father raising his daughter in the tranquil suburbs of Albany, New York. Grant’s world is turned upside down, when a brash young reporter named Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) exposes his true identity as a former 1970s antiwar radical fugitive wanted for murder. After living for more than 30 years underground, Grant must now go on the run. With the FBI in hot pursuit, he sets off on a cross-country journey to track down the one person that can clear his name.
As Grant reopens old wounds and reconnects with former members of his antiwar group, the Weather Underground, Shepard realizes something about this man is just not adding up. With the FBI closing in, Shepard uncovers the shocking secrets Grant has been keeping for the past three decades. As Grant and Shepard come face to face in the wilderness of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, they each must come to terms with who they really are.
Robert Redford as a Weather Underground fugitive? Barbra Streisand’s love interest? The con man who avenged Luther Coleman? I supposed that the director might have picked the aging Adonis even though the notion of a 76-year-old playing an ex-Weatherman is a casting mishap of major proportions. When it turned out that the director was none other than Redford himself, I could see the logic. If the septuagenarian Woody Allen could cast himself in roles far too junior, why would some equally narcissistic and powerful Hollywood icon resist the same temptation?