On Golden Pond Reviews

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½ November 29, 2014
Watching "On Golden Pond", you'll find something precious and rare as the film explores the passion that arouses between the elderly couple, Fonda and Hepburn.
December 11, 2008
I doubt why couldn't it win those technical awards in Oscar. The scenery is marvellous. But Henry Fonda's performance is superb also. He tells you what people need most in their old age. His relationship with Billy is interesting and sentimental. Katharine Hepburn's performance is slightly less powerful than Fonda to me, but she still portrays an adorable decent old lady vividly. The ending is heartwarming to watch.
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
½ August 20, 2014
Life goes on , on Golden Pond... Perfect characterisation of relationships and contains all the simple pleasure that time forgot--Warm, reflective, touchingly basic human drama, with Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn offering treasured performances in their twilight years!!
½ August 2, 2014
Fonda is incredible in this tender romance.
July 17, 2014
33 aņos y me sigue haciendo llorar
½ July 13, 2014
Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda star in a film together...that's an achievement in itself. These two acting legends had reportedly never met before this film in 1981, which is hard to believe seeing as they'd both been going strong since the 30s. To wrap the review up in a nutshell, so I don't spend all day going into it's sensational qualities, the fines thing about this film, and it's most essential quality, is that it comes off as 100% real. The entire casts' performances, the writing, all of it comes off so natural we forget we're watching a movie.
The most cinematic things about "On Golden Pond", and possibly it's best assets, are the score and cinematography. The beauty of the opening sequence can't be put into words. It was like a moving painting with soothing, beautiful classical music to accompany the mood. "On Golden Pond" is simply filled with beauty and naturalism- and no film can wrong with that. Near perfection.
June 8, 2014
"On Golden Pond" works through the same themes that occupied many big-time play adaptations between the 1950s and the 1980s. Like "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1958) and "The Lion in Winter" (1968) it is about inter- generational family dysfunction, and it seems to want to embarrass or shock the audience through a frankness of discourse. It is the kind of script that purports to peel away the supposedly-artificial niceties of middle-class life to get to the meat of matters, which in the minds of these kinds of playwrights always seems to mean sex and death. Tennessee Williams and James Goldman made that format dance, and watching the great Hollywood versions of their works is thrilling because of the way they constantly try to set new records for speed and intensity and brutal honesty. "On Golden Pond" imitates these classics but with a lower degree of commitment. It's slower and gentler, and it never seems to let a barb stand unaccompanied by a sappy line or a nostalgic musical cue. It's a movie that's easy to like, because it's a suger-coated pill. As Williams and Goldman knew, there's nothing challenging about a sugar-coated pill. To them, the purpose of writing characters who speak in a forthright way about difficult issues was to make us face our fears and anxieties, and their genius was to do this while also being entertaining. "On Golden Pond" wants to do these things, but it wants to go down easy. That impulse is not altogether a bad one; compare it with another play adaptation, 1966's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," which aims to scream the loudest and cut the deepest only to end up as thoroughly unlikable as its characters. Toward the beginning, "On Golden Pond" echoes "Virginia Woolf" as Henry Fonda's irascible "old poop" tries to discomfit a polite younger man with blunt sexual talk. By the middle of the movie, though, this riff on Edward Albee's hard-edged approach gives way to a much sweeter narrative about an unlikely friendship between Fonda's 80-year-old and a 13-year-old boy. It's nice, but it's predictable and safe and familiar and forgettable whereas its predecessors succeeded by being none of those things. Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda are believable, though, and Jane Fonda threatens to upstage both of them as their adult daughter whose eyes betray an inner mixture of depression and resentment and a certain flightiness born of self-doubt. If nothing else, what "On Golden Pond" shares in full measure with its more ambitious and significant forerunners is magnificent acting by a top-shelf cast.
May 12, 2014
An incredible movie with amazing performances. This is my first time watching a Katherine Hepburn movie and boy am I excited to see her others. She really stands strong in this as well as Peter Fonda. Jane is great as well but it is not her career best. The son is great as well. The writing is stellar and the music and cinematography are great.
½ May 3, 2014
Touching, and Henry Fonda showed a side of his acting never before seen. Reminded me greatly of my own grandfather.
April 23, 2014
My Favorite Film Is 1941's Citizen Kane.
April 21, 2014
2 screen legends together for the only time, both in Oscar-winning performances. Throw in beautiful New Hampshire cottage country, and a relationship that seems as true and authentic as ever was portrayed onscreen. Oh and did I mention, it's funny as hell? Fonda gets the best lines, but who doesn't love an old grumpy man? Hepburn is her usual best, they really broke the mold on that one...Jane Fonda plays their daughter, adding some serious poignancy to the scenes of father and daughter, estranged for many years. One of the few movies you can actually call a feel-good without having to worry too much about sap and schmaltz. These actors are too good for that shit. Definitely a modern classic.
March 23, 2014
Just watched this for the first time since I did back in the 80's. It has fared well all these years, probably because it's a relatable character story and the relationships drive the plots.

Yes it's flawed. Yes it's simplistic to the point of being cliche at times. But it endures despite it's flaws. Many good movies are flawed as this is. It doesn't relish in it's conflicts and while most consider this a flaw I consider it a positive. I prefer more subtle films anyways; I don't care what exactly is the issue between father and daughter. Sex abuse? Physical violence? Mental abuse? Adding more of that wouldn't make the picture any better for me, and it would preclude my kids from seeing it.

Which by the way my animated loving 7 and 9 year olds, while griping at first, we're drawn into this film once it got going and the shorter run time made it a good time. Wait, almost 2 hours is a short run time? I guess time flies while your enjoying yourself.

To those critics that say this story is too sweet; um, it's a story about death and preparing to die. This film gracefully is full of substance if you're the type that doesn't need to be bashed over the head with it to get it. The world needs more films like this that rely on strength of substance than on plot device; that are relatable in a real way and honest enough to allow the relation to happen; that have real-world value and are accessible enough for it to be a benefit to the real-world.
½ March 11, 2014
A well executed drama, as well as tying in little bits of humor, "On Golden Pond" succeeds, mostly on its great performances by its leads.
½ February 23, 2014
This is a bit slow and uneventful, but Henry Fonda's character Norman is very endearing and he made it worth watching.
February 4, 2014
They rarely make movies this good these days. This one is just about perfect across the board.
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.
January 26, 2014
A classic!! Top of the line performances from Katharine Hepburn (never seen her better) and Henry Fonda!!! Great family movie!
January 15, 2014
This is what an academy award winning actor should be like - even on his death bed.
½ November 19, 2013
So old fashioned! The 70's orchestral music kills you! The acting is impressing, especially Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn's performances. The plot with the small kid is quite good but it's "dated"...
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