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USA 1981
Directed by
Mark Rydell
109 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

On Golden Pond

On Golden Pond is one of those films that tends to accrue enthusiastic response more because of external considerations than intrinsic merits. A production carefully designed to represent collective middle-class aspirations for their twilight years it paints a sentimentalised picture of old-age with just enough tasteful irreverence to make it seem credibly real rather than overtly feel-good to a complicit audience (the script is by Ernest Thompson from his own stage play).

Henry Fonda, in his last film, plays an ornery old coot and Katherine Hepburn rolls out her eccentric senior citizen schtick as his wife (the kind of character  she’d pretty much been portraying since Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner) whilst Jane Fonda plays their daughter. With 3 Hollywood icons on screen, only a total sourpuss would not be favourably disposed to the film and director Mark Rydell makes sure not to alienate such by alternating laughter and tears with picturesque landscape photography (including an extended sequence with Jane Fonda in a bikini).

The outcome was Oscars for Hepburn, Fonda and Thompson and large box office takings. Given that it is well known that Jane Fonda was estranged from her father in real life the synchronicity between fact and fiction might be expected to elicit some  raw moments but there is no performative connection between her and her father, despite the dutiful requirements of the script. Fonda seems much more at ease with her screen boyfriend boyfriend (Dabney Coleman) and his son (Doug McKeon, who could be mistaken for Michael J. Fox in a blond wig) than with his own daughter, who simply does not get enough screen time, bikini-clad or otherwise, to demonstrate her worth.




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