Christopher Lambert and an all-star cast from the past makes “Gideon” one of those dream projects for director and audience. As I watched Charlton Heston, Shelley Winters, Shirley Jones, Mike Connors, Carroll O’Connor, Barbara Bain and Harvey Korman, I wondered where most of them have been all these years. It reminded me so much of the film “Cocoon”, seeing old talent renewed and made useful again and it was a pleasure.
“Gideon” is a very sweet character study that shows us that you’re never too old to grow.
It begins with the appearance of Gideon (Lambert), a gentle dimwit, at the Lake View Retirement Home. He’s certainly not old enough to be there but the owners and residents soon learn that Gideon has special needs and come to accept him.
It’s his innocence and demeanor that lead all of the characters to take to him. He has a kind word and encouragement for all. And it’s marvelous to see the wonderful mix of characters. Among them: Charlton Heston is Addison, a former university professor of philosophy, an intelligent introspect who occasionally banters with boisterous Leo (Carroll O’Connor), a former cook and restaurant owner; Mike Connors who starred as a private eye in his own TV show long ago, here plays Harland, a former boxer who now suffers from meekness and hearing loss. There’s Elly (Shirley Jones) who’s a soft-spoken mother to all and is the apple of Addison’s eye; Barbara Bain is Sara who appears to be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease and Harvey Korman plays Mr. Greer a quiet man who waits for phone calls.
This corral of characters is herded by Shelley Winters as Mrs. Agnes Willows, the uptight, nasty owner who bellows over them as if they were all children and her son, Richard, the doctor at the institute who works with nurse Jean the group activities director. Finally we have Coleman Walker, the kindly fix-it man.
Gideon very quickly becomes the glue that holds these people together. He listens. And the friendships that he forms are what, ultimately, make each character grow from a bickering, frightened and motley group to refined, caring individuals.
Lotta says this is a beautifully written tale where characterization is key and it moves along well. There aren’t too many movies out there for the older set. Fortunately, “Gideon” is a quality film with as much humor as sentimentality.