In what was his penultimate big screen appearance before an untimely passing, James Gandolfini starred alongside Julia-Louis Dreyfus in Enough Said. The awkward, bittersweet dramedy about getting back in the dating game after a spell on the sidelines is a worthy companion piece, precursor even, to Brett Haley’s I’ll See You In My Dreams. In a splendid turn, Blythe Danner features as Carol, a 70-something widow who loses a loyal canine companion and finds herself alone and a little bereft. Card games with the girls, golf and bountiful wine all prove unfulfilling and the menace of an unwelcome rodent house-guest doesn’t help her fragile sense of well-being. The love, laughter and tears that follow make for a reassuring, poignant watch.
Nowhere near as cheesy as its questionable title suggests, I’ll See You In My Dreams explores the highs and lows of geriatric romance as just as vivid, terrifying and clumsy as the first pangs of teenage angst. The object of Carol’s desires comes in the form of Sam Elliott who plays Bill. He lives at the Country Club but doesn’t play golf and is forever seen with an enormous cigar that’s never lit. However, the mysterious old silver fox is effortlessly charming in a restrained, low gravelly drawl kind of way. “You’re right just the way you are,” he says, upon first meeting Carol in a health foods shop, leaving his soon to be beloved weak at the knees. The two veteran actors aren’t overly stretched by Haley’s direction but nonetheless achieve a heartfelt warmth through loving glances from bright eyes and many years worth of smile lines; Danner, in particular, is marvellous.
A rather incongruous diversion is the friendship that develops between Carol and her much younger moping underachiever of a pool guy, LLoyd (Martin Starr). Inadvertently becoming the best of drinking buddies, they go to a karaoke bar where Carol, who in her heyday was in a band in ‘The Village’, drops jaws with a rendition of Ella Fitzgerald’s Cry Me A River. Starr’s Cat Stevens beard and hangdog expression make him amusingly laconic but their relationship borders on something very Freudian and its ambiguity feels like Haley couldn’t quite make up his mind how far he was willing to push the Mrs. Robinson vibe in spite of Danner’s undeniable beauty, elegance and grace.
I’ll See You In My Dreams is ninety minutes as familiar as that old woolly jumper you’ve had for a decade but is just as comforting. If anything, it’s worth seeing for Danner and girlfriends Rhea Perlman, Mary Kay Place and June Squibb vaping medical marijuana, groovin’ on a Sunday afternoon to The Rascals and heading to the supermarket for munchies in a sequence which leaves them all rather dreamy and will have you in stitches.