Kehr Capsule of the Week: On Golden Pond (1981)

The cinematic equivalent of shrink-wrapping, in which all of the ideas, feelings, characters, and images are neatly separated and hermetically sealed to prevent spoilage, abrasion, or any contact with the natural world. Henry Fonda (his technique showing for the first time) has his final role in this 1981 feature, as a lovable old codger; Katharine Hepburn is his wise, doting wife, and Jane Fonda is their estranged daughter. Ernest Thompson‘s screenplay resolves the family tensions by laying them off on heavy symbols and rhetorical tricks (a teenage boy, Doug McKeon, is brought in as the medium of rapprochement), while Mark Rydell‘s bright, banal visual style further sterilizes the issues. The film exudes complacency and self-congratulation; it is a very cowardly, craven piece of ersatz art.


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