Nearly four decades ago, at the 53rd Academy Awards, Robert Redford and Sissy Spacek had their ultimate moments in the Oscar spotlight as the director and star of Ordinary People and Coal Miner’s Daughter, respectively. Redford scored honors for his filmmaking - and his directorial debut won Best Picture to boot - while Spacek earned Best Actress, to date her lone victory at the Oscars.
Inexplicably, these two titans of the big screen had never teamed up for a motion picture over their storied careers in cinema - that is, until now.
Watching David Lowery’s leisurely The Old Man & the Gun, based on David Grann’s 2003 article from The New Yorker, one wishes Redford and Spacek had collaborated at least half a dozen times prior. They make an absolutely irresistible duo, sporting an enchanting rapport guaranteed to make your heart flutter and plant a gigantic smile on your face.
Redford is Forrest Tucker, the charming career criminal who cannot get enough of robbing banks, escaping prison and doing the whole thing all over again. Spacek is Jewel, the fetching widow who leads the coziest of lives on her horse farm and is taken instantly with the 70-year-old culprit. At first, Jewel cannot even believe Forrest’s story but, over time, is able to overlook her companion’s wrongdoings - heck, even the bank employees he’s robbing have nothing but kind things to say about this gentleman.
If The Old Man & the Gun were exclusively focused on Redford and Spacek, it would be a pitch-perfect endeavor. Alas, there’s a detective on Forrest’s heels and he’s portrayed by Casey Affleck, in a lifeless performance that makes his Oscar-winning turn in Manchester by the Sea look positively giddy. The Affleck scenes feel curiously incomplete, as if much material was left on the cutting room floor. Wonderful actors like Keith Carradine and John David Washington (so fantastic earlier this year in BlackKklansman) linger in the background, sans much of anything to do. As Forrest’s longtime partners in crime, Danny Glover and Tom Waits have a tad more to do but too feel rather underutilized.
With that said, The Old Man & the Gun remains a must-see for the beauty that oozes out of the screen anytime Redford and Spacek grace it. You won’t find another film couple so downright adorable this awards season.