“Cleaning The Pool”: “I’ll See You In My Dreams” Movie Review

I often like to ponder what my life will be like when I’m older. Will I be successful? When can I retire? Will I date Ron Perlman? These things (though not in that particular order) flow through my mind at a rapid speed. But the real question should be, will I be happy? That’s what indie darling I’ll See You In My Dreams asks of its audience and its lead, Carol (played by Blythe Danner).

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Our film opens with the day-to-day life of our heroine, a retired widow, who has a small group of card-playing friends, and has recently lost her dog. Is she the perfect Hollywood leading lady we aspire to become, or the unappealing protagonist we tend to run away from? I like to think Carol is a bit of both. As the film progresses, we see the misadventures in love and life Carol takes as she tries to discover what exactly she is supposed to do with the near end of her life. From dating the charming (and surprisingly sexy) Bill (Sam Elliot), to her strange friendship with pool cleaner Lloyd (Martin Starr), Carol’s story is anything but boring, as much as she likes to think otherwise.

In essence, I’ll See You In My Dreams is a movie that seems to have been dug out of a box of VHS tapes from the 80’s and 90’s. It has an end result that films such as Terms of Endearment or Steel Magnolias seem to share, in that when you begin to view them, you believe they’ll leave you emotionally one way, but in turn, leave you feeling completely the opposite. And if you haven’t seen either of the referenced films above, I’ll leave you an important hint to that emotion that I am trying to speak of: depressed.

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Carol is, for all intensive purposes, an interesting character. We learn of her past, present, and a bit of her future. She is well-rounded, and has her ups and downs, just like we all do. But unlike the leads of Endearment or Magnolias, who truly change as characters from beginning to end, Carol’s arc lacks the smooth transition of her classic movie peers, due to certain themes (ex. rats) being hammered into the audience’s head repeatedly. But it is nice that, at the very least, the kind of moments that would have been written for cheap laughs by the typical filmmaker are given a kind of grace and charm by co-writer/director Brett Haley.

That is not to say that the movie doesn’t offer a plethora of excellent aspects. For one, finally having a movie with Blythe Danner as the star is a treat. She’s an American acting treasure, and the fact it has taken her this long to get a lead role in a movie is just plain silly. Getting to hear her sing, is also, a beautiful sight to behold. She and co-star Sam Elliot have excellent chemistry, a pair that should have been put together cinematically a long time ago. Martin Starr also gives an excellent, subtle performance, though I honestly wish the film had more of a focus on their relationship than any of the others.

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The rest of the performances range from decent to bizarre, with greats Rhea Perlman and June Squibb seeming more like they were in a rush to get off the film set rather than actually acting. And though their scenes with Blythe are hilarious, its the kind of humor that seems to be more built up on the awkwardness of their performances, rather than the caliber of the script, which isn’t exactly a good thing.

So truly, its not that See You In My Dreams is bad, because it is far from so, but it could have been so much more. This easily could have transformed into a slice-of-life classic, in line with the greats of the 80’s and 90’s. But instead, it becomes forgettable indie dribble that is harmless overall, but no where near as remarkable as it would like to believe it is.

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I’ll See You In My Dreams is currently available for digital viewing on Google Play and other formats. 

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