• [The Daily] Venice 2017: Batra’s Our Souls at Night

    By David Hudson


    Let’s start with the Telegraph’s Robbie Collin: “‘We all have history,’ shrugs Addie Moore, a widow living in small-town Colorado, when a friend advises that her new beau—a twinklingly handsome widower from a few doors down the street, called Louis Waters—has a rascally past. And in Addie and Louis’s case, the observation has a neat double resonance: the pair are played by Jane Fonda and Robert Redford, whose three-film partnership in the Sixties and Seventies, across The Chase [1966], Barefoot in the Park [1967], and The Electric Horseman [1979], set them apart as one of the most indecently gorgeous screen couples the movies ever produced.”

    “Adapted from the Kent Haruf novel, Our Souls at Night is your classic Hollywood weepie, so immaculately played that it confounds crass preconceptions,” writes the Guardian’s Xan Brooks. “It arrived in Venice saddled with a premise that could hardly sound more cloying . . . Out of the blue, without preamble, Addie asks Louis if he wouldn’t mind coming over to sleep with her. Not for the sex, just for the company, because she is lonely and the nights are the worst. It’s a terrific opening gambit and Fonda plays it with aplomb. Her appeal is so nakedly sincere that something catches in your chest.”

    “Boasting the kind of star wattage that can’t be hidden under all the bushels of Wal-Mart sleepwear and mom jeans that the film can muster, Fonda and Redford prove, five decades after Barefoot in the Park, that they can still generate onscreen sparks,” writes Alonso Duralde at TheWrap. “We don’t get nearly enough movies about the love lives, let alone the sex lives, of people over the age of sixty, and while Our Souls at Night never achieves the dramatic depths of, say, Hope Springs, it’s lovely and moving in a decidedly understated way.”

    Our Souls at Night is maybe one-third of a good movie,” finds Glenn Kenny at RogerEbert.com. “The stars are the stars, and the premise is not bad even if it leads down some predictable roads. ‘It’s the kind of movie that makes you really miss Leo McCarey,’ I said to a fellow critic later that day. ‘Glenn, you’re such a classicist,’ he responded. ‘No, I just like good directors,’ I said. The director here, Ritesh Batra, has a tendency to invest almost every shot with about 16-tons worth of portent, smothering the humanism that Redford and Fonda are working hard to put across.”

    “Netflix will be releasing Our Souls at Night to its global platform on September 29, mere weeks after its glittery Venice Film Festival premiere,” notes Variety’s Guy Lodge. “While there’s been much to-do recently over the streaming giant’s spurning of theatrical release models, it’s hard to deny that the small screen may be the most natural fit for Batra’s film, given its pleasantly mollified storytelling and blandly unassuming visual style. . . . There is a certain irony, however, in the web distributing a film in which the characters themselves take a decidedly circumspect attitude to new technology—at least, until smartphones bring the old dogs closer to the possibilities of the late-night ‘u up?’ text.”

    “Everything, in the end, seems to revolve around that casting coup,” writes Screen’s Lee Marshall. “Like the pairing of Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn in On Golden Pond, this is a career celebration as much as a drama, one that’s given extra relevance, and poignancy, by Redford’s recent announcement that he is giving up acting to focus on direction.”

    “When asked at the press conference why he didn’t direct this film (Redford bought the rights to adapt the book and produced it), he pointed out that he wanted to give the opportunity to a young director, Ritesh Batra, whose debut film The Lunchbox became a success at Sundance,” notes Upcoming editor Filippo L’Astorina. “With a relaxing, heartwarming pace and music reminiscent of Nebraska, it just feels right to see Bruce Dern in a cameo role as a coffee friend of Redford.”

    “D.P. Stephen Goldblatt’s warm lighting favors the stars, highlighting their hair, erasing lines, and creating a safe, cozy atmosphere for their feelings to grow and bloom,” writes the Hollywood Reporter’s Deborah Young. “Jane Ann Stewart’s production design is beautifully expressive of small town America, while Elliot Goldenthal’s score is laid back and ultimately consoling.”

    Update, 9/10: For Variety, Shalini Dore’s asked Batra what’s next. “I am working on Photographer in Bombay, that I wrote and I’m directing later this year. We’re not casting yet. But I’m writing with the team from Lunchbox. It will be in English and Hindi.”

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