On Golden Pond (1981)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Family Drama, Melodrama, Reunion Films  |   Run Time - 109 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Dan Jardine

As America staggered out of its post-Vietnam Carter-era late-'70's numbness, films became one of the means to healing the country's psychic wounds. Consequently, 1981's On Golden Pond became one of a string of films anchored by the generational theme of parent-child rapprochement. One of the things that set this film apart from its contemporaries was the first-time pairing of real life father and daughter Henry and Jane Fonda. In order to evoke the requisite nostalgic tone, director Mary Rydell's film is seeped in sepia-golden hues courtesy of veteran cinematographer Billy Williams III. The film's conflict resolution process is too pat and the direction too self-congratulatory to allow it status as a classic, but there is genuine pathos plus some remarkable work done by Katharine Hepburn and Best Actor Oscar winner Henry Fonda. The elder thespians raise their roles from what could have been clich├ęs (the doting wife, the dottering coot) into the realm of archetypes. The supporting characters fare less well, as the script sometimes short circuits their development in order to get to the next big emotional moment. Despite these complaints, On Golden Pond succeeds because of its appealingly humane plea for generational healing and the wonderful work of Hepburn and Henry Fonda.