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On Golden Pond
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie's insights into family and aging may be too mature for young viewers, but they will enjoy the warm relationship between the rebellious boy and the grumpy grandpa. Parents should also know that the grandpa character suffers a heart attack.
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What's the story?
Retired professor Norman Thayer (Henry Fonda) and his wife Ethel (Katharine Hepburn) spend summers at Golden Pond, but this year they'll come to know their grown daughter, a teen visitor, and each other a little better. Obsessed with aging, Norman finds himself getting lost on walks and scarcely able to drive his boat anymore. To celebrate Norman's eightieth birthday, daughter Chelsea (Jane Fonda) arrives with new boyfriend Bill (Dabney Coleman) and Bill's rebellious teen son in tow. As always, Norman and Chelsea fight constantly. When Chelsea and Bill leave for Europe, they leave Billy Jr. behind. Initially resentful, young Billy comes to enjoy the simple pleasures -- mostly fishing -- with Norman. When Chelsea returns, now married, will she manage to make up with her father before it's too late?
Is it any good?
If kids can make it past these languid first minutes of sunsets on dappled water, they might find the rich relationships between family members of ON GOLDEN POND rewarding. Some older kids may find it a decidedly unhip affair for solo watching -- and it's certainly not one they'll seek out with their friends -- but it does make for good family viewing. Both kids and parents can relate to the intergenerational conflict and the way the story manages to resolve family strife. And all ages will take pleasure from the wisdom the old folks pass onto the youngsters and, conversely, the zest children enkindle in the old.
Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda both won acting Oscars for their work here. Hepburn is radiant as the sprightly matriarch, with her wide smile and warbling cry of "Nooorman." Her terror when Norman is felled by his angina attack is genuinely moving. Fonda is appropriately crusty and there is a touch of poignancy in the fact that the actor's real-life daughter Jane plays his character's estranged daughter. But few will muster much sympathy for Jane Fonda's whiny, self-centered character.
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