Is it possible for the past transgression to catch up with you when you least expect it? That was part of the premise behind the DVD release of “The Company You Keep,” which followed one man’s quest to stay one step ahead of the law while finding some much needed answers.
“The Company You Keep” followed Jim Grant (Robert Redford) who was living a quiet life in the Albany suburbs with his young daughter Isabel (Jackie Evancho) when the past came back to haunt him. On the surface, Grant was a model citizen who worked as public interest lawyer willing to help others, but there was more to Grant than met the eye. It turned out that his name wasn’t really Jim Grant, but it was Nick Sloan who has been on the run for three decades over his involvement with a 1970s anti-war radical group. Sloan was accused of being involved in a bank robbery that led to the death of a security guard. Local reporter Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) discovered his true identity after another fugitive named Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon) was recently arrested for her part in the robbery. Grant immediately goes on the run so that he could find a way to get back to his daughter, which involved finding his ex-lover Mimi Lurie (Julie Christie) who was the only one that could save Grant from a lengthy prison sentence. Unfortunately, he was having a hard time finding her, which meant he had to contact old associates that included Donal Fitzgerald (Nick Nolte) who had great skills of hiding people and helping them go on their merry way. As the FBI and Shepard follow Grant’s trail, a shocking family secret from Grant’s past could threaten to ruin many lives in the process if the truth ever came out. Will Shepard expose another hidden truth or will he do the right thing instead?
In terms of questions, the movie asked quite a few that weren’t fully answered due to the oversized cast serving as an occasional distraction because viewers were focused on who was going to pop up next rather than the overall story. Characters disappeared just as quickly as they appeared, which was a shame because some of them were rather interesting to watch. It also didn’t help that there were too many subplots going on that it took away from what Redford was trying to accomplish as the movie’s director. The movie’s two main characters (Grant and Shepard) had two separate stories going for most of the film when they should’ve been working together because they shared the common goal of finding out the truth. The movie also seemed to have a hard time deciding whether it wanted to be a political thriller, a chase movie, or a family drama. Sadly, the last option was the one that was the weakest aspect of the movie, which involved the family secret from Grant’s past. Although Brit Marling’s character was charming, she would’ve been better served in a different movie entirely because her character’s story was never fully invested in from the start. The only part of the movie’s family drama aspect that worked was Redford’s Grant and Evancho’s Isabel because their scenes offered moments of much needed levity. Redford and Evancho had a comfortable rapport that made moviegoers believed that they enjoyed working together. Hopefully, the two of them can work together in another movie that allowed their on-screen relationship to truly shine.
As for breakout performances, Redford and Christie led the pack for different reasons because they seemed to drive the movie’s story whether they were on-screen or not. Redford was able to explore how an activist’s ideals could change the course of their own lives if they weren’t responsible in choosing what causes they needed to champion. He showcased Grant as someone who wanted to fight the good fight quietly because he found that being a father was much more important. It also helped that he was paired with some great scene partners, such as Nolte and Christie. Redford’s most memorable scenes involved his pivotal confrontation with Christie’s Mimi that revealed what really happened that day of the bank robbery. The characters still shared a connection, even though they disagreed with each other about past mistakes. Redford gave Grant the right mixture of anger and sadness as he realized that the past was simply that and there was no going back. Christie, on the other hand, had the challenging task of packing enough of an emotional punch in just a few short scenes. Christie’s Mimi was more of an ideal that mentioned throughout the film, because Grant’s quest to find her was what drove the movie. She embodied Mimi with enough passion and lack of apathy for those around her that made her worth watching as the character strolled down memory lane with Grant. It’s just disappointing that Christie didn’t have a larger on-screen presence than a few scenes towards the latter half of the movie. Sarandon did deserve an honorable mention because she made her limited on-screen time work to her advantage before her story was concluded rather suddenly.
Verdict: Despite some solid performances, the movie suffered from pacing problems and one too many plot twists that took the story toward melodrama instead of making a major statement.
DVD Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Movie Rating: R
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)