'The Old Man & The Gun' is a Worthy Robert Redford Finale
I promised myself I would stop going to matinees. Really it's my own fault, but I choose to blame the latest iteration of MoviePass, which gives you just three movies per month before you have to start paying for tickets again (with their all-too generous two dollar discount!). So to save a few bucks, I went to a daytime Saturday screening of The Old Man & The Gun, remembering far too late that I had just walked into the Blue Plate Special. Out came the Tupperware, the getting up to go to the bathroom, the "what did he say?" and other comments made by folks who had forgotten how to whisper years ago. I tell you all that only to tell you how much this crowd enjoyed the movie. They loved it, laughing and cackling and giving "ah" "mhm" approval throughout. Not because they were old, necessarily, but because they were receptive to the pure enjoyment of the movie. The experience of watching this movie is equivalent to sitting down onto your favorite couch, sinking into the cushions, and letting out the slow release of a sigh. There aren't a lot of complex feelings to be had. You enjoy it. You feel safe. While you're there, everything is as it should be. The low, consistent tones of background music are complemented by the beautifully soft focus of the camera, and in several instances a golden light silhouettes the back of our heroes' heads. It's fitting when you consider that Forrest Tucker, the real life character on whom the story was based, lived a life close to legend. His "Over the Hill Gang" did go on a 60-bank robbing spree, he really did escape from 18 different prisons (including San Quentin via row boat), and he did think of himself as an an old western outlaw. The portrayal of the outlaw as a romantic figure in film has been done countless times, but there has never been a better avatar than Redford himself, a swashbuckling movie star the likes of which don't exist in the modern era. Really, it's impossible and unfair to view this movie as a standalone film. It is far better to think of it as the final episode of a Robert Redford TV show, one that has run for nearly 60 years, in conversation with the other touchstones of Redford's long-running relationship with the American moviegoer. When decades-old headshots of Redford the actor are inserted into the movie as younger photographs of his character, we as the audience can't help but smile. We remember that Redford. We know him. It's like we've just found our parents yearbook photos. When we see him mount a horse during one police chase, it is done so with the weight of iconicity. Robert Redford on a horse. We think of the Sundance Kid, we think of The Electric Horseman. Serving just as effectively as a send-off for one of the greatest movie stars of all time as it does a good movie on its own merits, The Old Man and The Gunsucceeds. Now more than ever, when seemingly every single movie that comes out sparks a controversy (seriously, First Man being anti-American and the Halloween reboot being pro-gun? So exhausting), we need a movie like this. Take a deep breath, let out a slow sigh, and just enjoy it. And if you have the choice, don't go to a matinee showing.
The Sting (1973)
For today's "something old" category, I have the impossible task of selecting only one of Robert Redford's iconic performances. I talked about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in a previous newsletter, and would be remise if I didn't at least mention Jeremiah Johnson, Three Days of the Condor, All The President's Men, The Natural, and Spy Game as a few iconic and required-viewing Redford performances. However, The Sting is one of my all-time favorite movies, and notably one of the first "old" movies that I really loved. It's not often that you can say an "old" movie is rewatchable, but Redford's incredible on-screen chemistry with Paul Newman and the build-up to the final plot twist are just as good on each viewing.
Quiz Show (1994)
It would be absolutely criminal to talk about the legendary career of Robert Redford without mentioning any movies he has directed, considering he's one of the most successful actor-turned-directors Hollywood has ever seen (The Legend of Bagger Vance notwithstanding). The best of these is Quiz Show, based on the true story of a massively popular trivia show in the 1950s that began to rig its competitions to increase the drama. The scandal that followed rocked the nation. Ralph Fiennes puts in a brilliant performance across from John Turturro, in a movie that's equal parts thriller and emotional drama. When I ranked the best movies on Netflix in a newsletter a few months back, this movie was firmly placed in the top 15. A must-watch.