The popular notion that seventy is the new fifty is operative in “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” a formulaic but engaging dramedy that has the signal virtue of giving septuagenarian Blythe Danner a role worthy of her (unlike recent supporting turns in junk like “Meet the Fockers” and its sequel)—as well as her character a chance at golden-years romance. Brett Haley’s picture won’t wow anyone, but older audiences in particular will find it a pleasant way to spend the time, and without the British accents usually heard in such fare.
Danner plays Carol Peterson, a retired teacher whose great solace over many years of widowhood has been her dog. Unfortunately, she has to put the animal down when it falls seriously ill, and all she has left are her card-playing outings at the retirement home where her best friends Rona (Mary Kay Place), Sally (Rhea Perlman) and Georgina (Jane Squibb) all reside. They encourage her to move there as well—and to start dating again (something that leads to a speed-dating sequence that’s one of the film’s weakest)—but she resists both suggestions.
Nonetheless she’ll soon develop very different relationships with two men. One is much younger—Lloyd, the pool guy, played with an amusingly laid-back attitude by Martin Starr. Especially after he helps rid her house of a nasty rat that’s been popping up at inconvenient moments and the exterminator hasn’t been able to wrangle, she warms to the fellow, and after a few glasses of wine they even make a sort-of date to go out to a karaoke bar, where Carol, a chanteuse many years earlier, astonishes the crowd with her performance of “Cry Me a River.”
But there’s another suitor on the horizon—Bill (Sam Elliott), a virile, self-confident retiree who might reside at the same home as her friends, but has a carefree lifestyle. The two meet—cute, of course—and quickly find that they enjoy each other’s company, overnight as well as during the day (when he takes her for an outing on his boat), and for a moment it appears that they just might become a real item.
It wouldn’t be fair to reveal where the script, by Haley and Marc Basch, goes from there, but suffice it to say that it takes a few turns one won’t expect. Unfortunately, they’re coupled with others that you can see coming a mile away—that speed-dating sequence, for example, or a scene in which the four friends get a mite high and go off to the market for some munchies, predictably running into trouble with the law in the process. Fortunately, Danner, Place, Perlman and Squibb are such canny veterans that they can make even the limper material seem better than it is. And Elliott is equally expert, exuding charisma and easygoing charm.
There’s a decorous, old-fashioned feel to “I’ll See You in My Dreams”—a bit of daffiness here and a smidgen of naughtiness there—but nothing that will upset its target audience, who should enjoy it as much as, for example, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” The technical package—Robin C. Givens’ camerawork in particular—is straightforward and unfussy, and some of the California locations are quite attractive.
In sum, this is a film that isn’t far removed from one that might have been made for a Sunday evening showing on network television—as a Hallmark Hall of Fame entry, for instance. But it would have made a pretty good telefilm, and it’s an agreeable enough as a theatrical release, too.