Review Catch-Up: The Old Man and The Gun

Written and directed by David Lowery, “The Old Man and The Gun” is a charming story about a gentleman bank robber, and a fitting tale for the (supposed) last starring role of one of Hollywood’s most prolific leading men, Robert Redford. His last leading character is a gentle nod to a bygone era of Hollywood and one whose antics are slyly showcased as a metaphor for Redford’s career as a whole. He portrays Forrest Tucker, a serial bank robber (and masterful prison escape artist) who never seems drawn to violence or malcontent, he simply and purely loves what he does, and he keeps getting away with it. Redford must feel some brotherly connection to a man that loves a good challenge, maybe someone that isn’t always successful, but when he is, his presentation and delivery is so pitch perfect that everyone forgets any missteps and becomes infatuated with his rapscallion ways.

This feel good crime caper may not be the most engaging or explosive film based on “mostly true events” involving armed robberies- but it certainly delivers, and that’s based almost entirely on Redford’s legendary charisma. Beyond Redford though, the rest of the cast solidifies the film and assist in adhering to the carefree and calm attitude towards crime, and its repercussions. Rounding out the “Over-The-Hill Gang” are Danny Glover as Teddy and Tom Waits as Waller. They may not have a lot of screen time devoted to their characters, but they get a couple scenes earlier in the film, including one that got a good chuckle out of me when Waller describes his former home life growing up, and how it led to him hating Christmas. Casey Affleck, working again with Lowery after “A Ghost Story”, plays the muted and grizzled cop John Hunt, who determinedly follows Tucker’s trail. Hunt’s peers and those in the media seem to only be bemused by the “Over-The-Hill-Gang”, as Hunt pointedly remarks to those recalling Tucker’s gentlemanly antics, “Nothing’s funnier than armed robbery, right?”

Though I’d be remiss not to include Sissy Spacek as Jewel. Spacek herself is another ace actor from cinema’s silver age, and her scenes with Robert Redford imbue Jewel with heart and tenderness that only she could bring to the character. Which is needed given that she falls for a charming old bank robber all the while knowing of his dastardly dapper indulgences. Jewel’s a simple woman that owns a picturesque ranch with a few horses, one of whom Tucker finally decides to ride (it was on his bucket list) after a thrilling car chase evading dozens of cop cars.

This is a small charming film that embodies that nostalgic American notion of the gentleman bandit, a man that is to be respected and feared equally. The film’s warm pastel hues and hypnotic, suave, and melancholy soundtrack accompanying it, pair to make a grand farewell for Redford, and it’s one that I wholeheartedly recommend.

Final Score: 5 banks in one day


Review: A Ghost Story

Written and directed by David Lowery, “A Ghost Story” is a quiet and small film about the enormity of existence, love, loss, and grief. I originally sought out the film mostly because it was another unique offering from studio A24, but also because of the simplicity of the idea. Lowery cleverly uses a childlike representation of the ethereal limbo as a story device- a figure draped in a simple white bedsheet- to examine some of the most universal themes of what it is to be human. This is a film that is almost certainly not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, mostly because it is almost devoid of dialogue and it slowly meanders with a melancholy tone for most of the runtime (which comes to 87 minutes). The story opens with Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck living their lives as most do, working on various projects and staying close to each other in proximity and in love. However to have a story about a ghost, someone has to die.

That someone is Casey Affleck. After his life ends abruptly in an auto accident just yards from his house we follow him in his ghostly form for the rest of the film. He passively watches his widowed wife grieve and attempts to console her to no avail. However, time in the afterlife soon becomes.. slippery and large pockets of time begin to wash over him. The Ghost stays in what was once his home long after his wife leaves. A character trait, we later learn, that is leftover from his fleshy form as he lingers and watches, listens, and sometimes even haunts new tenants over the years. There is a monologue during a party in which one man describes the inconsequential efforts of humanity to remain after we have left this mortal plane. Among a house of young people drinking and dancing one vocal participant voices this notion. It’s a small moment that is the heart of the movie’s message-“We build our legacy piece by piece,” he says, “and maybe the whole world will remember you, or maybe just a couple of people, but you do what you can to make sure you’re still around after you’re gone.” It’s a moment that stays with you as the ghostly figure transcends what must be decades upon decades as the plot of land that was once the site of his small house becomes the ground floor of a skyscraper’s construction.

Shot in square 1.33 Academy ratio frame with rounded edges the film gains a level of intimacy that few films can compete with. Shooting this way paired with the emotional clarity of always placing the ghost in the frame as he wistfully looks on crafts a sense both haunting and hypnotic. Though admittedly I don’t mean to place this film upon a pedestal of importance through this review, it’s simply a small film with a $100,000 budget and a few big names actors meshed together to create a satisfying note on the poetic nature of time’s infinity and how we all cope with that in our differing ways. If you have the time and the patience for a film like this, I suggest giving it a shot. Though if you know what kind of viewer you are and can’t sit through Rooney Mara cry/eat an entire pie for a couple minutes, you might not enjoy this one.

Final Score: Two ghosts and a monologue