On Golden Pond (1981)
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Critic Reviews for On Golden Pond
There is a natural rhythm to the film that makes its own quiet, life-affirming statement.
When it sometimes seems the whole society has spiritually decamped for Tinseltown, the movie offers the hope that people can come home again-at least for a visit.
Without question, these are major, meaty roles for Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda, and there could have been little doubt that the two would work superbly together.
Two of Hollywood's best-loved veterans deserved a far better swan song than this sticky confection.
Watching the movie, I felt I was witnessing something rare and valuable.
Audience Reviews for On Golden Pond
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.
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.
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.
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