I have to preface my review of the Jane Fonda-Robert Redford romantic drama, “Our Souls at Night,” currently streaming on Netflix, with the confession that I have had a very soft spot in my heart for Redford since I was 12-years-old. So we are talking a long time. That being said, there have been times I wanted to write him a letter asking him, “Why in heaven’s name did you do “Havana” or “Legal Eagles”?” But Redford, now 81, just summons warm memories.
Flashback to the summer of 1966 when I eagerly left the confines of the dreadful Hillsdale Garden Apartments in San Mateo for a nice new duplex in a cul-de-sac about eight blocks away. For the first time in my life, there were two girls around my same age living near me, there on that cul-de-sac. I became fast friends with Jenny, with whom I am still in touch, and Lynn, and we would meet every Friday night to watch “The Wild, Wild West” and “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” talk endlessly about the Monkees, and go to movies – lots and lots of movies.
So it was in July 1967, my parents dropped the three of us off at the Belmont Theatre for a double bill of the 1966 caper romance “How to Steal a Million” with Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole and “Barefoot in the Park,” starring Fonda and Redford. This was their second pairing onscreen, as the two had first worked together in the overheated Southern melodrama, “The Chase.”
Our burgeoning hormones sighed when blue-eyed O’Toole came on screen, but I think there were probably audible sighs at the sight of Redford. It was love at first sight. We begged our parents to let us return. And six days later, we were back at the Belmont daydreaming about Redford.
Soon my mother became a Redford fan. We would make sure to see every film he was in and whenever possible, the first show on opening day. I had “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” posters in my bedroom and later on the wall in my college dorm. My mother named our new parakeet Redford and the yellow bird turned out to be one of the most loving, sweetest creatures. In fact, when he died at 14, my father, who never cried, actually wept. When my parents came out to visit me for Christmas we would always go to movies on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. And the three of us had a blast Christmas Eve 1979 at “The Electric Horseman,” the third collaboration between Fonda and Redford.As I said – warm memories.
And during my 26 years as a movie/TV reporter, I had the opportunity to interview Fonda three times, and more importantly, Redford also three times. The first time it was in person, and happily he was everything you hoped your pre-teen dreamboat would be like. When I called my mother to let her know I had interviewed Redford, she broke into this little girl giggle.
My life is quite different now. My parents have both died. The Redford posters that survived various moves are now packed away in my closet. I took the buyout from the L.A. Times last year and freelance a bit these days. I belong to AARP.
When I saw “Barefoot in the Park” with Jenny and Lynn, we all had so many hopes and dreams for the future. There were thousands of tomorrows in front of us. Now, there are far more yesterdays behind me than tomorrows. So I when I sat down to watch “Our Souls at Night,” I hoped I loved it as much as most of the critics have. it’s at 89% fresh on rottentomatoes.com. And I did.
It’s the perfect vehicle for Redford (who is also a producer on the film), and the 79-year-old Fonda to reunite after 38 years. It’s a delicate love story of second chances that shines a spotlight on their undeniable chemistry. Watching the film, I felt like I was in the company of old friends.
Adapted by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber from Kent Haruf’s 2015 novella-he died in 2014 at the age of 71- “Our Souls at Night” revolves around Addie Moore (Fonda), a lonely widow who has troubles sleeping at night by herself in her big bed. One night, she knocks on the door of the equally lonely widower Louis (Redford) who lives a few doors down from her. Addie had been friends with Louis’ late wife, but doesn’t know him well.
She has a proposal that is not as indecent as it first sounds: “Would you be interested in coming over and sleeping with me?” Addie nervously tells the shocked Louis that she isn’t interested in sex, but talk and companionship, and hopes having him share her bed will make it easier for her to sleep.
After having time to think it over, he shows up at her door carrying a shopping bag with his tooth brush and and pajamas. Naturally, word gets around their small town Colorado town, and people begin talking about his nightly sojourns to Addie’s – especially Louis’ friends, lead by the gossipy Dorlan (Bruce Dern), who meet mornings for coffee and breakfast. But soon the town accepts their relationship.
Both Addie and Louis have a lot of baggage from their marriages. Louis’ daughter Holly (Judy Greer) is still trying to find herself and Addie’s rather hot-tempered son Gene (Matthias Schoenaerts), is having marital and work problems. In fact, after his wife leaves him, Gene drops off his young son Jamie (Iain Armitage of “Young Sheldon”) to stay with Addie. Instead of being a hindrance in the dramatic narrative, the arrival of Jamie adds depth and complexity to the story and especially to Louis and Addie’s backstory.
Redford and Fonda both have on strong personalities, but they beautifully underplay their roles. Their scenes together are poignant, especially when the two fall in love. Indian filmmaker Ritesh Batra, who directed the acclaimed “The Lunchbox,” uses a delicate and deft hand. He’s not afraid of letting this story play at its own speed, relishing the silences and letting these legends the room to give two of their best and most charming performances.
When the screen went to black, I broke into a wide smile and took off my reading glasses. Suddenly, I felt like I was 12-years-old again.