“I’ll See You in My Dreams” has a dream cast — Blythe Danner, Sam Elliott, and such supporting players as Mary Kay Place, Malin Akerman and Rhea Pearlman.
It’s got a dreamy plot, about last-chance love, grief and finding that passionate avocation from your distant past.
But it hangs on a screenplay as random as a dream. It drifts to and fro, straining for laughs, leaning too hard on the sparkle provided by its veteran cast, never quite settling on what it wants to say or do.
Danner plays Carol, twenty years a widow, settled in her suburban LA home with her bridge-playing pals (Pearlman, Place, June Squibb of “Nebraska) close by in a nice retirement community. She refuses to move there.
“I don’t like my life too complicated.”
Then, her beloved yellow Labrador Retriever dies — Danner gives this scene a lovely ache. That jolts her to widen her horizons, just a bit.
She flirts and becomes drinking buddies with her pool guy (Martin Starr), an aimless young man with a worthless degree in poetry. They hit the karaoke bar where Carol’s chanteuse past (“Cry Me A River”) pays off.
Speed dating, dabbling in medical marijuana with her pals — easy laughs aimed at an older audience. Or they would be if the scenes had any snap or jokes to them.
Then the tall, swaggering stranger sidles up to Carol in the vitamin aisle and growls, “You don’t need all that. Just right, the way you are.”
Sam Elliott positively twinkles in the role. And Carol, perfectly put together, lets a little blush slip through and a tiny possibility sneak into her thinking.
Co-writer/director Brett Haley’s great coup was in having a script that attracted an A-list of older-than-average actors. The effortlessly stylish and still winsome Danner calls to mind the various Diane Keaton dotage comedies — “Darling Companion,” “And So It Goes,” “5 Flights Up” — still perfectly coiffed in a perfect stiff of a movie.
The moments of grief have very little sting, the laughs die of oxygen deprivation. Malin Akerman, as Carol’s daughter, has nothing to work with aside from a cute wardrobe.
Danner’s performance can be savored for its subtlety, but even that robs the budding romance of its spark. Elliott provokes grins and giggles with every appearance, all drawling charm and “Life’s too short” confidence. He should be a transformative acquaintance for Carol.
But “I’ll See You in My Dreams” wouldn’t dream of anything so overt or delightful.
MPAA Rating: PG – 13 for sexual material, drug use and brief strong language
Cast: Blythe Danner, Sam Elliott, Martin Starr, Rhea Pearlman, Mary Kay Place
Credits: Directed by Brett Haley, script by Marc Basch, Brett Haley. A Bleecker Street release.
Running time: 1:32