There's little that happens in On Golden Pond that isn't thoroughly predictable from the start, but the film is blessed with so much star power, charm and honest sentiment that everyone in the audience is willing to ignore the cliches and go the distance. In his last film, Henry Fonda plays Norman Thayer, a cranky 80-year-old retired professor, ...Read MoreThere's little that happens in On Golden Pond that isn't thoroughly predictable from the start, but the film is blessed with so much star power, charm and honest sentiment that everyone in the audience is willing to ignore the cliches and go the distance. In his last film, Henry Fonda plays Norman Thayer, a cranky 80-year-old retired professor, making his annual pilgrimage with his wife Katharine Hepburn (in her only teaming with Henry Fonda) to their New England summer cottage. Their solitude is interrupted when the couple's daughter Chelsea (Jane Fonda) arrives with her fiance Bill (Dabney Coleman) and his son Doug McKeon in tow. It takes a while, but Jane Fonda and Coleman, about to go on a vacation of their own, persuade Henry Fonda and Hepburn to take care of McKeon. Henry Fonda and the kid dislike each other from Square One, and it looks as though this summer (which may very well be Henry Fonda's last) will be a depressing experience. Gradually, Henry Fonda and McKeon grow to love one another; their bond is strengthened during a near-fatal accident while fishing. It is through the warm relationship between Henry Fonda and the boy that the old man and his daughter Jane Fonda are at last able to display affection towards each other--the first time they've done so in years. Gorgeously photographed by Billy Williams, On Golden Pond is a wonderful valedictory for Henry Fonda, who died not long after the film's completion; Katharine Hepburn has less to do, but few can do so much with so little. Academy Awards were bestowed upon Henry Fonda, Hepburn, and screenwriter Ernest Thompson (who adapted the film from his stage play). Hal Erickson, RoviRead Less
Katharine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda, Doug McKeon, Dabney Coleman. Fine in fine packaging. Language: English. Run time: 109 mins. Originally released: 1981. 1996 release. From personal collection, NOT a rental. Watched once or twice. Still excellent. Based on the play by Ernest Thompson, ON GOLDEN POND tells the deceptively simple tale of one family's summer. The story centers around the bickering but loving relationship between Ethel and Norman Thayer (Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda), an elderly couple who are spending their 48th summer at their New England country home and celebrating Norman's 80th birthday. When their independent, insecure daughter, Chelsea (Jane Fonda), and her new boyfriend, Bill Ray (Dabney Coleman), come for Norman's birthday, they also end up asking the couple to look after Billy Ray (Doug McKeon), Bill's teenage son, while they travel to Europe. Over the summer, Norman becomes closer to Billy Ray than he has ever been to his daughter, sparking Chelsea's long-repressed resentment when she returns. In this beautifully filmed story, there are many things going on along the surface of Golden Pond, including the presence of the loons--who represent all things wonderful about their summer house and their life to Ethel. Director Mark Rydell elicits deeply touching performances from his cast (particularly Henry Fonda in his final screen appearance), and the dialogue of Thompson's script is equally graceful. The odds were against this decidedly quiet, small ensemble piece when it was released in 1981, but the timeless material and the confident direction triumphed.