comscore 'In My Dreams' looks timidly at fulfillment as finality looms | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

‘In My Dreams’ looks timidly at fulfillment as finality looms

    Sam Elliott and Blythe Danner star in “I’ll See You in My Dreams.”

To the lengthening list of well-mannered films aimed at moviegoers who have reached an age when, to quote Shakespeare, "the heyday in the blood is tame," add "I’ll See You in My Dreams," a modest, quietly touching portrait of an older woman radiantly embodied by Blythe Danner. Her character, Carol, widowed for two decades, is a nice, sensible woman who lives alone in a comfortable Southern California house with her ailing dog, Hazel. When, near the beginning of the movie, she has to have the animal put down, she is briefly grief-stricken.

Rated: PG-13
Opens Friday at Kahala 8

Carol, a retired schoolteacher who married happily and had a daughter (Malin Akerman), who is now grown and living back East, scoffs at the possibility of remarrying or of even pursuing romance. Strictly as a lark, she experiments with speed-dating and is propositioned by a voracious eager beaver who volunteers that he doesn’t mind if she has herpes.

Decades earlier, Carol performed with a band in New York City but gave up singing to become a teacher. Coaxed to a karaoke bar by her glum, poker-faced pool cleaner, Lloyd (Martin Starr), with whom she strikes up an oddball friendship, she delivers a respectable version of "Cry Me a River," while he drones an excruciating, out-of-tune "I Think We’re Alone Now."

Carol, who lives near a retirement community, whiles away her afternoons playing bridge and sipping chardonnay with three of its residents, Georgina (June Squibb), Sally (Rhea Perlman) and Rona (Mary Kay Place), who pressure her to move there. As you watch the movie, directed by Brett Haley from a screenplay he wrote with Marc Basch, you half-expect it to turn into a 21st-century "Golden Girls." And during its longueurs you wish it had.

The friends are played rather broadly, and each has her signature foibles. But the screenplay gives them no setups or punch lines. Except for one scene in which the four get goofy on marijuana, the movie doesn’t strain for laughter.

A potential Mr. Right appears in the person of Bill (Sam Elliott), a snowy-haired widower and retiree with no family ties who lives on a boat conveniently docked nearby. The unlit cigar between his teeth, the glint in his eye and his deep cowboy voice signal virility. This aging dreamboat pursues Carol with a courtly machismo, and a spark is struck. But the movie bravely resists following the obvious route.

Its real subject is time and how people old enough to know the end is in sight deal with looming finality. Carol certainly has everything one could want at her age. With her cornflower blue eyes and Cheshire cat smile, she is still beautiful. She suffers from no discernible physical ailments, and she seems to have enough money (from life insurance, she explains) to be free of financial worries.

But when most of your life is behind you, what does having everything really mean? That’s the question this timid, wistful film addresses as it tiptoes around the subject of mortality.

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