Stephen Root Joins Robert Redford’s THE COMPANY YOU KEEP

     August 17, 2011

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I imagine Stephen Root is a joy to work with, the kind of actor that motivates directors to search for a role for him in their next project.  Exhibit A: Root played a small part in The Conspirator, and director Robert Redford promptly signed the actor for his follow-up The Company You Keep.  Redford also stars as “a former militant wanted by the FBI who goes on the run when his identity is exposed by an ambitious young reporter (Shia LaBeouf).”  Brit Marling, Nick Nolte, Susan Sarandon, Richard Jenkins, and Julie Christie also star.  According to Variety, Root will play Billy Cusimano, one of Redford’s legal clients before his former identity is revealed.  I fall for most stories set in the 1960s, but the talented cast goes a long way to validate my hopes in this case.

Lem Dobbs (The Score) adapted The Company You Keep from the novel of the same name by Neil Gordon.  Read the synopsis after the jump.

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The revolutionary politics of the 1960s haunt the complacent domesticity of the 1990s in this engrossing, if sometimes muddled, melodrama of ideas. When limousine-leftist lawyer and single dad Jim Grant is unmasked as Jason Sinai, an ex-Weather Underground militant wanted for a deadly bank robbery, he abandons his daughter and goes on the lam. As he evades a manhunt and seeks out old comrades, the author introduces a sprawling cast of drug dealers, bomb-planting radicals turned leftist academics, Vietnam vets, FBI agents and Republicans who collectively ponder the legacy of the ’60s. Gordon (Sacrifice of Isaac) skillfully combines a tense fugitive procedural, full of intriguing lore about false identities and techniques for losing a tail, with a nuanced exploration of boomer nostalgia and regret. Alas, there are a few too many long-winded, semicoherent debates about the radical excesses of the era that inadvertently evoke marijuana-fueled dormitory bull sessions. Through these exchanges (and a little sexual healing), ideological opposites come together over a facile anti-politics of “national reconciliation.” Gordon’s rueful radicals, having finally outgrown their adolescent outrage over parental hypocrisy, decide that personal loyalty and raising children trump all belief systems and that “none of the principles matter” any longer. Some who lived through the 1960s may take offense at this caricature, but other boomer readers may find the mix of countercultural drama and familial schmaltz a gratifying validation of their life cycle. In either case, it will get them talking. [Amazon]

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