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On Golden Pond (1981)

Some times it really does take star power to make a movie work. “On Golden Pond” is such a movie.

It is about an old couple who know they are in the last years of their life, and are trying to go out in style. It helps that they are played by legends Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn. It is some of their best work. They are Norman Thayer Jr. and Ethel Thayer (saying her name is like having a lisp, Norman says). They are having a summer getaway at an old cottage (I am not sure if they say where it is exactly, but that is not important anyway).

The chemistry between Hepburn and Fonda (who both one Oscars: her fourth and his first a year after an Honorary one) is the movie’s glue that holds it strongly together. These two have been through it all, and know each other better than anyone. Norman is clearly the one who is losing his grip on reality first, but not his sharp wit and attitude.

Their daughter Chelsea (Jane Fonda) visits with her new boyfriend Bill (Dabney Coleman) and his 13 year old soon Billy (Doug McKeon). In real life, Jane was not getting along with her celebrity dad, and since it happend that their characters in this film were not getting along either, the tension on screen is devistangly powerful. Also, this movie is one of the first to master the pairing of generations. Norman and Billy have to spend time together, and it is a clash of wit, swearing, fishing, and humanity.

This film is also proof that there probably will never be another Katherine Hepburn. She was in her seventies when she made this film, and she still was tough as nails (probably tougher). There is a scene where both Billy and Norman are thrown into the water. During filming, Fonda and Mckeon each wore wetsuits under their clothes due to the cold. Hepburn, who decided not to have a stunt woman do the diving for her, did not wear such a suit under her clothes.

All in all, this is a movie I want to watch more and more as I get older. I am not (as of now) married, or with children. I still have many years to go till I reach my “golden pond” moment, where I can look back at my life, and wonder how I got to where I am at that point. Very few movies give you the feeling that you actually can look forward to getting older.


Overall: Five Stars *****


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