May 2, 2013 Film & TV
Directed by Robert Redford
As with Spring Breakers (another body-part-obsessed film released this month), there are jiggling body parts in The Company You Keep. They are the wrinkles and wattles of an ageing acting workforce who happen to be the best thing about this flaccid political manhunt. Robert Redford, Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte, Richard Jenkins and a few more old salts feature as fictional members of the real-life Weatherman group (also known as the Weather Underground Organisation), militant lefties from the 60s who make the Occupy movement look like a litter of puppies barking at a shoe.
Adapted from a novel by Neil Gordon, the action kicks off when suburban mother-of-two Sharon Solarz (Sarandon) turns herself in after three decades in hiding, for a Weatherman robbery that went fatally wrong. A short while later, an ambitious young journalist (Shia LaBeouf), under pressure from his depressive boss (Stanley Tucci), discovers that local left-wing lawyer Jim Grant (Robert Redford) is a fugitive Weatherman too.
That’s Redford’s cue to leave his 11-year-old daughter behind and hightail it across the country in search of Julie Christie (hubba hubba), with LaBeouf in hot pursuit, because all newspapers will die if he doesn’t singlehandedly get this story, apparently.
LaBeouf’s Ben Shepard is a bit of a creep, whose dodgy story-gathering methods predictably end in an ethical dilemma. I’ll give him this, though: LaBeouf is a brave man to play an investigative journalist alongside Redford. The shadow of All the President’s Men is long. He also gets to sit opposite Sarandon in the movie’s best scene, her giant eyes emoting all over the show as the firecracker explains her lack of remorse: “Kids our age were being murdered by our government… It wasn’t abstract.”
The action heats up to levels that septuagenarians can handle — Redford jumps a waist-high fence! — but the story loses its puff when it moves from fugitive drama to romantic reverie. It does ask some good questions along the way (did Weatherman members commit their crimes because of their staunch politics, or because of who they hung out with when they were young?), and it led me back to one of my all-time favourite films, also inspired by Weather Underground: Sidney Lumet’s emotionally captivating Running on Empty (RIP River Phoenix).