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I'll See You in My Dreams - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
I'll See You in My Dreams
Directing: B+
Acting: A
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B+

I'll See You in My Dreams is absolutely worth seeing, but it should still come with a warning: Not quite as lighthearted as the trailer would have you believe. There are plenty of light moments, actually, and they are more than welcome, given how much more there is to do with death in this movie than you'd ever expect.

Early on, Carol (a truly wonderful Blythe Danner) has to put down her dog, who is basically dying of natural causes after a long dog life. We later learn that she's had this dog for still less time than she's been a widow (twenty years), but even before that, we have to spend an arguably protracted amount of time watching the dog get sedated, euthanized, and cried over by Carol. It's done subtly and without histrionics, but if you've ever had to put down a beloved pet, the scene will take you right back there. It's still a bit much. And this isn't even the only death-related scene in the movie. There's more to come! It's worth it, trust me on that, but also: be prepared.

Evidently, we need to understand how Carol comes to feel like something is missing in her life. We come to learn that although she meets regularly for cards or golf with three friends (June Squibb, Rhea Perlman, and Mary Kay Place -- all great), Carol has lived barely contented alone n her house -- until now, with her dog -- since 1995. Her friends all live in a nearby retirement community, and only when their neighbor, the charming Bill (Sam Elliott, perfectly cast), asks Carol to lunch does she start to consider a moderately more interesting retirement life.

It's difficult to characterize how engaging this movie really is, actually. Carol's friends are lively and funny. Bill is mysterious and intriguing. Carol is in a state of unusual sadness, and circumstances conspire to rework how she views the world she lives in. And Blythe Danner plays Carol as a woman we would all love to be friends with, regardless of age -- hence the unusual friendship she strikes up with her pool boy, Lloyd (Martin Starr). Much of the film is spent making us wonder if this will turn into some kind of May-December romance, which, thankfully, it never does. Instead, Carol and Lloyd hang out drinking wine or go to karaoke.

Much of this story seems to fall barely short of plausible, particularly Carol's supposedly complete lack of involvement with any new men over the past twenty years, and now she easily accepts Bill's invitation to lunch. And she meets Lloyd and Bill within days of each other. What makes I'll See You in My Dreams work incredibly well,in spite of all this, is its plot twists that refuse to twist too hard. It's totally unpredictable, but a completely comfortable journey, with the possible exception of the grief Carol experiences. But her great group of lady friends help counter that, as welcome comic relief. A sequence involving all of them smoking pot for the first time in decades is irresistibly entertaining in spite of how corny it is.

And even the corniness is fleeting. Most films follow a tired formula, which makes us expect the arc of the story to involve Carol meeting a man, one of them screwing up somehow, and then that one of them gaining forgiveness so they can move on together. Carol does meet a man, but no one really fucks up in this movie. Some bad things happen that aren't anybody's fault. Carol figures out how to deal with them. You wind up just feeling glad you got a chance to get to know her.

Blythe Danner is perfect in the bittersweet I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS.

Overall: B+
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