This is the second great movie of 2019, and just like the other one (The Mustang), the trailers don’t do it justice. This is a tender, powerful, sad…incredible film.
The character Diane (Mary Kay Place) has a list of things she’s doing, and there’s a lot on that list. She goes to visit her cousin Dottie (Deirdre O’Connell), who is in the hospital fighting cancer. There’s her son Brian (Jake Lacy), who is fighting the demons of addiction. You’d think both of these people would be glad to have a Diane in their life, yet both of them seem to resent her a bit.
There are so many wonderful scenes in this movie that slowly sneak up on you and knock you out. There are also subtle scenes that just makes you feel like it’s a small town, filmed in a realistic fashion. Sometimes that means a family gathered around a kitchen table ribbing each other and telling old stories. The last movie I remember doing that in a realistic way that didn’t go over-the-top by trying to do too much with the writing was Rachel Getting Married.
Another scene has a fight taking place at a soup kitchen Diane volunteers at. The combination of her being frustrated at what’s going on in her life, with a co-worker she feels is rude, made her explode. It was so brilliantly underwritten and powerful (it reminded me of the scene in Terms of Endearment where a cashier is rude to a woman that doesn’t have enough money to pay for her groceries).
There are cute little scenes like Diane bringing a casserole to someone in need, and adding “This is your casserole dish that I’ve had for the last six months.”
And instead of the scene I’m sick of, showing the protagonist in the car singing along to a cheesy song (Gloria Bell a few weeks ago, was the last movie to have one of those), it’s a lot more powerful seeing Diane drink away her sorrows in a dive bar with an obscure Leon Russell song blasting on the jukebox. And just as my wife leaned over and said, “Is that bartender going to let her drive home drunk?”…you realize just how things are done in this small, snowy, Massachusetts town.
The cast is rounded out with a terrific group of character actors, including one of the Van Patten’s — Joyce, as well as Andrea Martin, Glynnis O’Connor, and 91-year-old Estelle Parsons, who won an Oscar for Bonnie and Clyde in 1967.
It’s amazing to think that this is the first narrative feature from Kent Jones, although it’s not like he’s a 20-something indie filmmaker. This is a 60-year-old guy who has written for successful shows, worked with Martin Scorsese (who executive produced this), co-directing A Letter to Elia), and also gave us the documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut. He’s also been a successful film critic (hey, there’s hope for even me!)
Perhaps it takes an older film lover like Jones to not give us cliche moments, like the way the drug addiction is dealt with, and what ends up happening with that character. It was a terrific choice, and just when I think he did a perfect thing with that character…he has the character give a speech to his mom that is just wonderfully unexpected and perfectly written. One of the few small complaints I have, is how the mom acts towards something else that has channelled her son’s energy. It felt cliche, and like something her character wouldn’t have minded as much, since her son was on death’s doorstep just a few weeks earlier.
This movie is a great exploration of loneliness and regrets, and more than just a character study of a woman in her golden years. I was so profoundly moved by this picture. My wife liked it, but not quite as much as me (she had problems with the pacing and totality of it all).
I felt Glenn Close was robbed of the Oscar last month. Well, if Mary Kay Place doesn’t get a nomination for this, that’ll make me equally as mad. You won’t see a better performance this year, and it’s a shame that most people won’t see the work she and Jake Lacy did in this picture.
4 stars out of 5.