The Company You Keep co-stars Robert Redford, Julie Christie, Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte (who increasingly sounds like Yoda), Chris Cooper, Richard Jenkins, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Elliott, and Stephen Root — it’s like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for old people.
The movie has one foot in the eternally seminal 1960s and another in the 2013s or so, what with its Twitter and apathetic youth who ought to “get involved with a movement.” It features askew a conversation between aging Boomers and the cast’s Gen X and Y’ers, including Shia LeBeouf (never worse), Anna Kendrick, and Brit Marling.
Director Redford wants to prod the younger generation into action, a mission he undertook to greater effect in Lions for Lambs. This time around, he’s hamstrung by his generation’s actual record, the failings of which he’s blind to. The movie is like Robert Mankoff’s great New Yorker cartoon, “10th Anniversary Woodstock Reunion” — aging hippies talking about old times, the new establishment.
The Company You Keep paints the picture of a group of well-intentioned students back in the day protesting the Vietnam War who got a bad rep because of a few militants willing to resort to violence, such as bombings and bank robbery. About the good guys, a former radical says, “We made mistakes but we were right.” The best of the movie — and what the movie is about, really — is the argument of whether or not violence was justified. The worst: The film is satisfied asking but not answering the question.
The clunky movie is a perfect metaphor: a generation reveling in its high-water mark but not taking responsibility for its failures. It says to the kids, do as we said and not as we did. An oldster’s paradise.