Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Company You Keep (Rhoades)

“The Company You Keep”
Is Interesting Company

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Back in the day some of us were a little radical -- protesting, joining causes, saving the world. Perhaps some of my old acquaintances went too far, joining underground groups, defying the law, occasionally committing criminal acts. You remember those groups, ranging from Yippies (Youth International Party) to Weather Underground to Symbionese Liberation Army to Black Panthers.

Many of them put away their protest signs as they got older. But some had to go on the run, wanted for such heinous crimes as bombings or bank robberies. They faded into the fabric of society, with new identities, new professions, new lives.

Who knows, your next-door neighbor may have a secret past?

“The Company We Keep” tells such a story, a former Weatherman wanted for a bank robbery that took place 30 years ago. Now he’s a liberal lawyer and single father named Jim Grant, not Nick Sloan as the FBI posters remember him. Here, we see what happens when an eager-beaver reporter begins to unravel his hidden past.

Wow! What a great cast: Robert Redford as the aging fugitive. Shia LaBeouf as the young reporter. Susan Serandon as a former member of the Weather Underground whose arrest sets the story in motion. Julie Christie as Nick’s fellow bank robber and lover. Richard Jenkins as a college prof with ties to radical groups. Chris Cooper as Nick’s brother. Nick Nolte as his best friend from the old days. Sam Elliott as a marijuana grower. Stephen Root as the owner of an organic grocery. Stanley Tucci as the reporter’s tough-minded boss. Terrance Howard and 

Anna Kendrick as FBI agents. Brendon Gleeson as a retired cop.

“The Company You Keep” was also produced and directed by Robert Redford. He says he was inspired by “Les Misérables,” Victor Hugo’s story of ex-convict Jean Valjean’s years on the run from the relentless Inspector Javert. “As a kid, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I don’t know why. It just got to me,” said 76-year-old Redford. “For me, the essential word if I’m going to be doing something is story. What’s the story, where’s the story?”

As for ‘60s protest movements, Redford admits, “I was emotionally sympathetic with that cause at that time because that was my time.”

Adapted from Neil Gordon’s novel, the screenplay of “The Company You Keep” maintains “a scrupulously ethical balance,” yet allows angry left-wing radicals (like Sarandon’s character) to have their say.

Could Robert Redford have turned out like Jim Grant/Nick Sloan, the Albany lawyer whose past is catching up to him? “That’s speculation,” he grins. “I think probably because my whole life I have had that slightly outlaw sensibility. I have always had trouble with authority, which when I was younger got me into a lot of trouble.”

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