Decoration Day (1990)
On Garner's Pond
Ever since his wife died Albert Sidney Finch (James Garner) has retired; retired from being a judge, retired dispensing legal advice and retiring from civilization as he spends his time in his isolated home where he goes fishing most days. But Albert Sidney's peace is interrupted when his wayward godson Billy (Norm Skaggs) comes by to tell him that his childhood friend Gee Penniwell (Bill Cobbs) is in need of some legal assistance. It turns out the Government want to award him with the Congressional Medal of Honor and Michael Waring (Laurence Fishburne), an activist and bureaucrat, is determined that he will he accept it despite Gee's insistence he doesn't want the honour. It leads to Albert Sidney' becoming involved and having to deal with the past as well as the present.
I always wished I had a relative like James Garner; he always seemed to play characters especially during his later years that seemed to be full of the wisdom gained from a life well lived and a generosity when it comes to the well being of others. Of course I am on about the parts which Garner played but you can't play that sort of part so convincingly without having experienced many things and is why so many people rated James Garner as an actor because he always made it appear that he wasn't acting, just being which is most certainly the case when it comes to "Decoration Day" a charmer of a movie full of nostalgic warmth.
Now I am going to keep the detail slim because whilst most movies are predictable there are some which lead you to watch because even when you read a synopsis you can't be sure what is going to happen and "Decoration Day" is one of them. There are some predictable elements especially with Garner playing one of those characters which are cantankerous but have a twinkle in their eye which you know means there will be someone who cares for him deeply. But there is a whole lot of history which unfolds from Albert feeling he owes Gee one whilst Gee has some deep held issues with what happened during the war. It is not heavy but intriguing and naturally has a lot of nostalgic charm as Albert recollects to how things were when he and Gee were childhood friends.
Aside from this story which has nostalgic appeal it also has James Garner but firstly a wonderful supporting cast with Ruby Dee, Bill Cobbs and Laurence Fishburne all delivering classy performances as even in minor roles they bring character to their parts. But the star of "Decoration Day" is James Garner and as he always did he made it look so easy, like he wasn't acting just being himself. Take for example one of the first scenes where he walks up a dirt track to his home having been fishing, simple thing to do but he walks that path in such a way you believe he has walked those same steps every day for 30 years and knows every crack in the sun baked dirt. It is the same when Garner walks around an office to dictate a letter, his passage back and forth makes you believe that beneath his feet is bare carpet where he has paced those same steps for many years. I could go on but to put it simply Garner does what he did all his acting life whilst also bringing out the best in the actors around him by being so natural.
What this all boils down to is that "Decoration Day" is a movie which might have worked with out James Garner but owes a lot to Garner because it is his naturalness, charm and ease which draws you in to every single second of it.
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