Other Titles • On Golden Pond • Am goldenen See (1982)
Synopses for On Golden Pond (1981)
For Norman and Ethel Thayer, this summer On Golden Pond is filled with conflict and resolution. When their daughter Chelsea arrives, the family is forced to renew the bonds of love and overcome the generational friction that has existed for years. Norman must find his way through his anger and fear of growing old, while Chelsea struggles to rebuild their relationship. Ethel's consistent support of her "knight in shining armor" is inspirational in its simplicity. This is a movie to ponder and always keep in your heart.
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.
Writer Ernest Thompson, who came up with the original stage play of On Golden Pond and adapted it for film, is lucky to have two giants of the screen give dignity and breadth to his sometimes trite dialogue. Henry Fonda, in his last role, plays a prickly English professor at the disagreeable age of 80. Visiting his summer house by a Maine lake with his wife (Katharine Hepburn), the old man forges an unlikely bond with a lonely boy, comes to terms with his daughter (Jane Fonda) and suffers disorienting effects of mild dementia. Even playing a tired old man, Fonda is an absolute lion of a movie star, and Hepburn brings her special spirit to the part of his worried bride. The onscreen relationship between Henry and Jane Fonda naturally makes one think about their much-discussed difficulties off screen, but that's a side benefit in a movie that is really just a celebration of simple human decency. Directed by Mark Rydell (Harry and Walter Go to New York). --Tom Keogh
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