By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
You don’t know Bob Burkholder, David VanderWal, or Britton Crosley, but you know guys like them. They are men of a certain age, with a certain amount of free time and life experience, but uncertain about navigating retirement.
They are the men of “Old Goats,” a locally produced film (much of it was shot on Bainbridge Island) that played in the 2011 Seattle International Film Festival. Come to think of it, maybe you do know Bob, David and Britton, if you’ve hung around the area long enough.
Those are the names of the characters, and also of the actors (actually nonprofessional actors) who play them — but “Old Goats” isn’t a documentary. Instead, writer-director Taylor Guterson has fashioned a winning portrait of men who’ve succeeded in life but are nevertheless at loose ends.
They meet at a weekly bull session at a local cafe. Britton has captured the imagination of his fellows by announcing that he’s going to sail to Hawaii in the suspiciously barnacle-crusted boat he’s lived on for 30 years.
That doesn’t happen. A bunch of things don’t happen in this movie, which is one of the things to admire about it — it doesn’t wrap its plot threads in a neat package and tie everything off.
Bob is an old adventurer who continues to be a ladies man, and is full of vinegary comments when asked for advice. Also when not asked for advice. (I am happy to say this movie has a lot of realistic, non-cute profanity.)
David is recently retired, has clearly done well (his wife is fixated on getting their second home in Palm Springs), and now has time to enjoy the finer things. Except something’s not clicking for him.
In some ways, he’s the most interesting character in the bunch, because he ought to be happy, but he’s not. “Old Goats” is a crowd-pleaser, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it deserves better than that description, because the movie brings up some very real issues that aren’t easy to summarize or solve in the space of a greeting-card sentiment.
Burkholder, VanderWal and Crosley are obviously not veteran actors, and the movie’s got its share of rough edges: a few too-obvious jokes, and the like. But I enjoyed watching and listening to these old goats, who carry a great deal of authenticity in everything they do on screen.
Guterson is the son of “Snow Falling on Cedars” novelist David Guterson, and grew up on Bainbridge Island. This film feels practically homemade, but there’s no denying his feeling for people in unresolved places, a very refreshing thing to see in the movies.
“Old Goats” (3 stars)
A low-budget portrait of three retired gents who find themselves at loose ends, in a story shot on Bainbridge Island. Despite the rough edges, the movie’s got a minimum of cutesy jokes and a maximum of feeling for unresolved situations, thanks to the authentic actors and director Taylor Guterson.
Rated: Not rated; probably PG-13 for language.