The Film: As movies come and go with such rapidity in our nation’s theatres these days, Robert Redford’s outstanding The Company You Keep may be gone before the word spreads about just how good this film really is. If it’s playing anywhere near you, don’t miss it. The all-star cast is loaded with acting genius, both old and young, from Redford, himself, Julie Christie, Nick Nolte, Susan Sarandon, and a host of others, to the young and hottest new female talent to light up the screen, Brit Marling.
Jim Grant (Redford) is an attorney on the lam for participating in Weather Underground anti-Vietnam activities over 40 years ago. That a bank robbery resulted in the death of a guard has made the revolutionaries fugitives from murder charges, therefore with no statute of limitations, and still on the FBI’s most-wanted list. Because Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon) has decided to turn herself in, and a backwater journalist from Albany, NY (Shia LaBeouf) stumbles across information that leads him to discovering Grant’s true identity, Grant, an attorney for the right causes for over twenty years, and an exemplary single parent, gets his seven year-old daughter to safe custody with his estranged brother then goes on the run to clear his name. A chase fraught with tension, thrills, dogs, and helicopters unfolds. At the same time, the film reveals the real story: the personal effects on lovers and families of those involved or caught up in Weatherman history, and for each secret revealed is added another layer of punishment for all, even children. Without lapsing into pedantic political theorizing, it’s a soaring achievement of documentation of history, and a brilliant insight into how the struggle for what these revolutionaries fought for (and lost) are still with us today—polarizing society even more so, but with no organized resistance in sight.
The Book: (A New York Times Notable Book, by Neil Gordon, 2003) Because I was living and working in India when this outstanding novel was published, I missed, completely, whatever ripple it created—for though it was a ‘notable book, it was not a NYTimes best-seller. Now that it has been made into a major motion picture, perhaps this oversight will be made right, and the reading public will rediscover just how intelligent and well-written Gordon’s novel is, and enjoy, as I did, the exquisite prose he uses to tell it. And though I’m only now discovering it in 2013, I’m glad that – better late than never – I found this really great read. If fiction provides focus to the disparate events of our messy historical landscape and personalizes it, so we can see it, feel it, and understand it, as it takes us on a journey in the mind, The Company You Keep is a resounding success.