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Old-fashioned, conservative and at times humorous family drama convinces by the sheer strength of the three stars' performances.
Shoot me for appreciating sentimental melodrama when it works. This is a film that does make a screenplay filled with clichés and unremarkable direction work due to the superb performances from the two leads. Watching Henry Fonda, one of my favorite actors, and Katharine Hepburn, another undisputed Hollywood legend, play a sweet old married couple who understand each other completely is lovely. The film is obviously supposed to impress you with it's high caliber stars and it mostly leans on them to make it through it's running time but the production values are strong and the treatment of the subject matter is tasteful while retaining an air of authenticity.
Retired university professor Norman Thayer, Henry Fonda, has a close, loving relationship with his strong willed wife Ethel, Katharine Hepburn. The two begin to seriously worry about the threat of death as he begins to struggle to remember various details and faces other health problems. With the introduction of their estranged daughter Chelsea, Jane Fonda, who resents her father for not offering her much affection as a child, their lives are thrown into turmoil as she announces that she has a fiancé in Bill Ray, Dabney Coleman. She asks them to take in his son Billy Ray, Doug McKeon, for a month while they travel in Europe and during this month Norman is able to bond with the child. When Chelsea returns she finds her father a changed man but finds that she has issues with his new attachment to her stepson.
The most touching scenes in the film come when the central married couple reaffirm their affections for one another and have truly tender moments. The sight of a man who is so prickly to others appearing measured and calm in the company of his wife, who clearly adores him, warmed my heart. The scenes also produce iconic lines as we get to hear Hepburn tell her beloved "Listen to me, mister. You're my knight in shining armor. Don't you forget it. You're going to get back on that horse, and I'm going to be right behind you, holding on tight, and away we're gonna go, go, go!" in a moment that makes even the most cynical person melt. The reason that these scenes are so emotionally moving is the well written screenplay that seems to know what the benefits of a longtime relationship are and the impressive chemistry between Fonda and Hepburn.
Speaking of the actors both won Academy Awards for their performances and while I don't think they should have won, Meryl Streep in The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981) and Burt Lancaster in Atlantic City (1980) do better work, they are quite lovely in this film. Individually Hepburn manages to craft a character who feels like an older version of her characters from Christopher Strong (1933) and Desk Set (1957) but also something entirely new. We believe the love in her eyes as she watches her husband's familiar behaviors and the warmth with which she approaches the familiar routines of her day as she heads out to pick strawberries and rides speedboats. Fonda is fantastic as the grandfatherly but cold figure as he is able to be completely sympathetic at one moment and oddly menacing the next as he turns cold immediately. We feel such love for these performers but here they prove why they stand out among the pack as even in old age they are utterly sublime on screen.
The one element of the film that didn't really work for me was Jane Fonda's performance as she seems unwilling to give into the emotions necessary to make her character's arc make sense. We needed to see some of the resentment and sadness but Fonda gives us the steeliness and anger that was employed to good use in They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969) but which alienates us from her here. In addition to this we get superfluous scenes that seem designed to show off Fonda's figure more than her acting ability in a film that is not targeted at the set who will be fans of her workout videos.
This won't be for those who require originality in the films they watch but for those who have a soft spot for seeing old Hollywood legends reunited this will satisfy all of their cravings.
Amazing movie and performances by all the cast. Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda are phenomenal. A movie that makes you happy from the start to the end
Very funny, and i'm very glad no one dies, putting this movie into my top 10 most favorite movies ever. Suck-face was the funniest line.
Beautiful moving drama with screen legends Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn putting in magical performances.
At first I was thinking this was going to be a boring movie about a bitter old couple on their retirement getaway, but it ended up being one of those sentimental family type movies. It sure has a lot of fishing scenes, so those parts tended to be a bit on the snoozy side, but overall it's not a total snorefest. No idea that Jane Fonda was such a MILF back in the day, whew...
With its star-studded cast, beautiful scenery, and heartfelt family moments, the classic film "On Golden Pond" is a must see for audiences of all ages. Iconic American actors Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn show us what true love really means; accepting your partner's flaws and learning to love their quirks and idiosyncrasies. The other keystone relationship in the movie is that of Chelsea (Jane Fonda) and Norman. The portrayal of their complicated father-daughter relationship perfectly encapsulates the difficulties of cultivating a strong relationship between a parent and child, and the process of letting go of the past and moving forward in a healthy way. Aside from the incredible cast and heartwarming story, the setting alone is reason enough to enjoy this film. Golden Pond is the perfect, serene get away, evoking envy in every audience member. This movie is a classic that must not be forgotten over time. Young or old, everyone can find their escape "On Golden Pond."
A liberal confectionary, that accepts divorce, premarital sex, and profanity with a sweet charm, is still a very human one with the drama centering on the human condition of the main characters and two great performances from Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda.
A classic American film. Great if you want to watch and great if you want to fall asleep too, you Old Poops! :D
Dabney Coleman's finest work since he tried to jam that dude in Tootsie.