• PG, 1 hr. 49 min.
  • Drama
  • Directed By:
    Mark Rydell
    In Theaters:
    Dec 4, 1981 Wide
    On DVD:
    Mar 20, 2001
  • Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

Opening

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On Golden Pond Reviews

Page 1 of 47
hunterjt13
hunterjt13

Super Reviewer

October 8, 2013
An aging couple cares for their estranged daughter's stepson.
This is probably the nicest, sweetest, most wholesome film about death ever. The primary conflict, Norman's fear of death and his unfinished business, is treated with such a light-heartedness that the film takes on a dreamy pastoral quality. By itself, the film could be charming, able to deliver insight about going into the night with a smirk rather than a frown, but the film's conflict is complicated with the entrance of Norman's daughter. I understand that the conflict between Henry and Jane Fonda informs the film's contemporary interpretation, but as it plays today, there needs to be more setup than Chelsea's weeping into her mother's arms about Norman's placidity.
The film's highlights are the performances. Even Jane Fonda is exceptional, and Katharine Hepburn plays the ideal, strong-willed grandmother, a woman all of us should want guiding our lives. Henry Fonda's Oscar win was deserved.
Overall, it's hard to imagine so many ducks and landscape shots in a film about the inevitability of death, but at times, not often, On Golden Pond pulls it off.
KJ P

Super Reviewer

August 29, 2011
On Golden Pond may have a very straight forward story about a couple growing old together as they now live on "Golden Pond", a quite little place on the water where family and friends come to visit. As their daughter brings her new fiance to visit, they are blessed with a 13 year old grandson, who is a stubborn little kid at first sight, but as charming as anyone could possibly be on the inside. The performances are significantly brilliant and the actions of each character will have you in a universe of mixed emotions. For Norman Thayer, his life is not too far from finished and he will do anything with his arrogant comedic-like attitude to relive his childhood by becoming best friends with his grandson. This truly is a basic story, but the writing, the acting, the events, and the outcome is so touching and moving that I can call it a masterpiece. This is surely "cinema" in all it's glory.
Spencer S

Super Reviewer

August 8, 2010
With the subject matter circulating around death, failed relationships, and troubled families it would seem that this would be a shouting match waiting to happen. Instead the plot plays coy, reeling you in with the calm wooded surroundings and the fraility of Ethel and Norman in their ripe old age. The underscored drama is just fodder for what is to happen: a coming of age bonding that supplements from Tuesday with Morrie to wow the audience with the family friendly fair all grown up. A wonderful film if ever I saw one.
arashxak
arashxak

Super Reviewer

April 10, 2009
Nauseous feel-good wannabe crap
Cherry D

Super Reviewer

August 15, 2007
"Everyone looks back on their childhood with a certain amount of bitterness and regret? It doesn't have to ruin your life darling!"
movieguru12
movieguru12

Super Reviewer

July 28, 2008
An Exellent feel-good movie!
sainttom93
sainttom93

Super Reviewer

March 1, 2008
talk about a tender movie -- this is the other side of Kate --
Jennifer X

Super Reviewer

June 21, 2007
Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn evoke that old-school Hollywood glamour that just charms the pants off this movie. Jane Fonda didn't impress me but I read somewhere that there were a lot of parallels between the father-daughter relationship of her character and her own life. Which was kind of interesting. Yay for Henry Fonda winning a well-deserved Oscar! Old poop.
Daniel P

Super Reviewer

August 23, 2007
No one creates tension like Henry Fonda: everything he touches is so terse, as a viewer, you're just waiting for the other shoe to drop. This is a good film - a little hoky, but a solid adaptation of the play, which always seems cornier. This was Fonda's last role, and what a way to go out - starring with Katharine Hepburn (whose performance is also solid) and his daughter too - he won the academy award for best actor, and died within five months. Class ending for a class act.
Lanning :

Super Reviewer

December 26, 2006
I think it might be true that the older you get the more this movie may mean to you. Fonda and Hepburn light up the screen. Minus one star for the harming of worms and fish. You'd think in a movie where impending death is a prominent theme that they'd be more sensitive to this issue. Poor Walter. Catch and release is not kind.
deano
deano

Super Reviewer

November 15, 2006
Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn made their great performance as the oldest and loving couple.
Byron B

Super Reviewer

February 14, 2007
Henry Fonda is so crotchety and grumbly and yet so adorable, like an old hounddog. Katherine Hepburn is so strong and caring. I wasn't as impressed by Jane's performance in this one. But overall, the movie fills you with a sense of peace and love of life and acceptance of death and old age when it comes.
Cameron W. Johnson
Cameron W. Johnson

Super Reviewer

August 31, 2014
I'm so tempted to make a reference to The Band's "Up On Cripple Creek", but that song is way too fun for a film this slow-I mean, sad. This film is reasonably entertaining, I guess, but it's more family dysfunction, and features Henry Fonda about a year away from dying, and that is some sad stuff, and premium Oscar bait, at least in the early '80s, when family dysfunction dramas were still being popular after "Kramer vs. Kramer". First, it's "Ordinary People", and now we have "Old People", with Jane Fonda being pretty decidedly an exception. Man, she was nearing her mid-40s in this film, and she was still hot, as well she should be if she was going to fulfill certain daddy issues that this film kind of helped her resolve. I guess annoying liberal democrats have to stick together, even if they are part of the family unit that they are trying to destroy, or at least deconstruct. Before this film, with "The Rose", Mark Rydell even made the rock star lifestyle look depressing, so as if family pond trips weren't already a bummer, just wait until you see this. No, really, I would recommend that you see this film, because it's a good note for Henry Fonda to go out on, despite its shortcomings.

This film holds the potential to be pretty refreshing for what it is, and in a couple areas, it is, but on the whole, it's pretty predictable, hitting a number of tropes as it progresses down a familiar path, and at something of a limp clip, as well. Mark Rydell's steady directorial approach to storytelling is thoroughly realized more often than not, with adequate entertainment value and a solid deal of intrigue, but things really start to bland up once Rydell loses material to draw upon, as he does fairly often, or at least just often enough. By that, I mean that there is enough dragging to the storytelling to beget a sense of repetition, if not aimlessness, until the film begins to lose focus, if not consistency to focus. Minimalist though this film's narrative may be, it does have certain distinct segments, and a sense of aimlessness goes exacerbated by jarring shifts between them, established through the film's dedicating too much time to each segment, yet not enough time to fleshing out the layers of this plot. Immediate development is barely there, and gradual exposition does have its lapses, in spite of nuanced storytelling whose depth would be more realized if there weren't certain sentimental extremes to the dramatics which shake a sense of genuineness, and overemphasize an ambition to milk this drama for all its worth that, in turn, overemphasizes the limitations of this drama. There is plenty about this story which is rich with a potential that, upon being hit, is thoroughly fulfilled, but there's also a lot of simplicity to it, and that is stressed by the predictability and questionable pacing and structure of this inspired, but ambitious and sometimes sentimental project. Of course, the final product compels pretty thoroughly throughout its course, delivering on resonance for every challenge to engagement value, to the point of immersing, with the help of a distinguished setting.

As the title might suggest, this film focuses a good bit on its setting, filmed at Squam Lake in Holderness, New Hampshire, a lovely location that the filmmakers explore thoroughly, and polish through cinematography by Billy Williams that only stands out with its lighting, but stands out a good bit in that department. There's something beautifully tender about the visual style of the film, and about Dave Grusin's score, which is underused and conventional, but tasteful and lovely in its complimenting the genuine heart that drives a lot of the storytelling, and the story concept itself. The subject matter followed by the film may be predictable and light in scale, but it is of considerable value, at least in theme, dealing with an aging man coming to terms with his condition and finding a firmer grip on life, partly through his relationship with loved ones. Ernest Thompson's script is not as extensive as it could have been in fleshing out its narrative, no matter how much fat it leaves around the edges of storytelling, but it holds your attention through clever dialogue and humor, as well as a number of thoughtful spots to characterization that draws distinguished roles for the intimate storytelling to thrive on. Even Mark Rydell's direction is intimate, with a thoughtfulness that is a pinch bland at times, but near-consistently realized, enough so to milk the wit of Thompson's writing and sustain plenty of entertainment value, punctuated by sentimental touches that, when subtle, are near-piercing in their genuineness and resonance. This is a very moving character study, but it couldn't be if the characters weren't so well-portrayed, and sure enough, just about everyone delivers, with the lovely Jane Fonda, the endearing Dabney Coleman and the young Doug McKeon being pretty convincing in their respective supporting roles, while Katharine Hepburn, with her classic sparkling charisma at its most realized, would have stolen the show, if it wasn't for Henry Fonda's final performance, which is rich with charm, and with effortless dramatic layers whose more subtle spots capture a sense of fear in a man nearing the end of a long and happy life, and whose more charged spots sell the great deal of life and humanity still left in the Norman Thayer Jr. character. This is among the better performances Fonda gave throughout his career, and is therefore a good note for him to go out on, for it does about as much as the inspired storytelling when it comes to driving the final product as a touching tribute to life.

In closing, the film is a little predictable, draggy and slow, and fairly uneven, with enough undercooked and sentimental touches to emphasize the natural shortcomings that most threaten the final product, whose solid engagement value is consistently and firmly secured by the lovely location, cinematography and scoring, clever writing, tasteful direction, and inspired performances - especially the final one by Henry Fonda - which drive Mark Rydell's "On Golden Pond" as a consistently compelling and sometimes deeply moving drama.

3/5 - Good
John B

Super Reviewer

January 28, 2014
Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn's farewell to the screen that provided so many wonderful memories is a jewel. A story of bonding through previous coldness. It is magnificent.
Jason Vargo
Jason Vargo

Super Reviewer

February 2, 2011
Yes, it is melodramatic and cheaply produced and way, way too quick to a resolution. But dammit...it's Fonda and Hepburn doing what they do best: making the audience feel for their characters. To be frank, the inclusion of Jane Fonda and her step son aren't really needed to propel the film forward. Watching the degenerating Norman Thayer Jr. and his wife Ethel Thayer spend another summer on Golden Pond is a good enough way to spend 108 minutes. The film is all about relationships and precious little else. No spectacular crashes, no grandiose moment where these people change the greater world. No. Rather it's the little moments, the first time we see Ethel acknowledge her husband's condition. The final scene, which is a heart breaker. The ideas the movie represents of making peace before it's too late and letting new people into your life. I'm not about to fault the film for moving through the plot too quickly. Especially not when I was enchanted with the film and the performances of the two leads.
zeravenyoej
zeravenyoej

Super Reviewer

April 14, 2008
I watched this for my Adulthood and Aging class and was pleasantly surprised with the entertainment value. The only thing that was really bothering me is the wayyyy dated music. Takes me right out of the mood. The casting is fun: two greats and a real life father-daughter team who famously have a real-life troubled relationship. The other flaw is the rather simplistic family psychology. But the film is well acted and surprisingly funny.
Andrew F

Super Reviewer

May 4, 2006
It showed the differences of age groups really well.
Stephen E

Super Reviewer

June 15, 2013
"On Golden Pond" may not be a terrific film, but it is a very peaceful, enjoyable experience. The main reason to watch it is because Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn are both quite amazing in their portrayal of an aging couple. Both are so strong and perceptive and there's such an undeniable chemistry between them.
Marcus W

Super Reviewer

June 7, 2008
Hepburn and Fonda are better than this melodramatic gumpf. One for grandparents.
DrStrangeblog
DrStrangeblog

Super Reviewer

August 20, 2011
Melodramatic to a fault but one cannot deny the fascinating undercurrent of emotion between Jane and her dying father Henry Fonda in scenes that mirror their real-life strained relationship.
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