Some actors are lucky. In the third act of their careers, they become dream versions of their own parents, or grandparents.
Paul Newman did that. So did Katharine Hepburn. We got to know them, and love them, at one age; then, against every Hollywood dictum, they were allowed to mature, to mellow, as they acquired a few more years. They weren’t competing with their iconic youthful images so much as putting our memories of those early years to good use, as the crow’s feet, slowed gait and thinning hair came along and changed them. It’s a privilege to watch an actor age gracefully in the movies; so few are given the chance or the roles.
Robert Redford is a slightly different case.
He’s not aging gracefully; he’s aging supernaturally. He’s now 76. He looks terrific, and it’s movie-star terrific, which makes it harder for him to figure out how to play an ordinary (or even extraordinary) character who happens to be getting on. The copious and permanently wind-swept hair remains ready for its close-up, and there’s a moment in Redford’s new film “The Company You Keep” when his character, a ‘60s radical long in hiding and wanted for murder, runs down a dark street at night, thinking he’s being followed. It’s as if the Redford of “All the President’s Men” nearly 40 years ago never stopped running once he met with Hal Holbrook in that D.C. parking garage.
Taken from a novel by Neil Gordon, “The Company You Keep” is livelier than the last couple of films directed by Redford, “Lions for Lambs” and “The Conspirator.” It’s best enjoyed as an actors’ showcase. Premise: Redford is Jim Grant, a progressive public interest lawyer living in Albany, N.Y. He’s a widower (the wife in the novel wasn’t dead, just a trashy mess of an ex) raising a preteen daughter on his own. Then a cub reporter (Shia LaBeouf) ferrets out the truth on this man: He’s really a former member of the bomb-throwing, bank-robbing Weather Underground anti-war collective.