Diane


Mary Kay Place knows she won’t get an Oscar for her performance here, even though she deserves one.

(2018) Drama (IFC) Mary Kay Place, Jake Lacy, Estelle Parsons, Andrea Martin, Deidre O’Connell, Glynnis O’Connor, Joyce an Patten, Kerry Flanagan, Phyllis Somerville, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Ray Iannicelli, David Tuttle, Marcia Haufrecht, Mike Hartman, Cara Yeates, Gabriella Rhodeen, Charles Weldon, Paul McIsaac, Laura Knight, Teri Gibson, Ann Osmond, Dierdre Friel. Directed by Kent Jones

The movies that often affect us the most deeply are the ones that are quiet little slices of life. So, that would describe Diane to a “T.” Set in rural Massachusetts, Diane (Place) is a retired widow who spends most of her days caring for others – her cousin (O’Connell) dying of cervical hospital in a sterile hospital, her son Brian (Lacy), killing himself with a drug habit, her aging friends and the homeless, to whom she serves food at the local shelter.

We see Diane driving around the area down beautiful, snow-covered roads that look like a cinematic Currier and Ives Christmas card, but as we watch her go through her appointed rounds we begin to unravel the fact that despite the veneer of caring and compassion, Diane is a broken soul, carrying around burdens of guilt that any Catholic would understand.

Place gives the kind of performance that wins awards although, sadly, she was overlooed for most of the major ones. 70 years old at the time of filming, Place gives the kind of dogged characterization that we unwrap layer by layer until we are left with the core of the woman as the film comes to a breathtaking end. While the movie never got the acclaim it was due in many ways, you can happily rectify that situation by giving it a watch yourself. This is a gem of a movie that should be on every cinema buff’s radar.

REASONS TO SEE: Despite the sometimes-painful subject matter, the film is nevertheless full of warmth. Place gives a career-best performance. Strong interpersonal dynamics throughout.
REASONS TO AVOID: Occasionally a bit too stark.
FAMILY VALUES: There is profanity and drug use here.
TRIVIAL PURSUITS: Jones, a film critic of note, wrote the title role with Place specifically in mind for it.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AMC Plus, AppleTV, Curia, DirecTV, Google Play, Hulu, Roku Channel, Tubi, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 1/21/22: Rotten Tomatoes: 93% positive reviews; Metacritic: 86/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Time Out of Mind
FINAL RATING: 8.5/10
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Pick of the Litter – March 2019


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Captain Marvel

(Disney/Marvel) Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jude Law, Annette Bening. This is the story of Carol Danvers, a human test pilot who becomes one of the most powerful creatures in the universe as Earth is caught in the middle of a war between two alien races. Set in the 1990s, this will be the last MCU film before the finale in May brings to a conclusion the first four phases of the lucrative film franchise with Avengers: Endgame. March 8

INDEPENDENT PICKS

The Hole in the Ground

(A24) Seána Kerslake, James Quinn Markey, Simone Kirby, Steve Wall. In this creepy Irish horror film, a woman struggles to begin a new life with her little boy in a rural environment but her fragile security is shattered by a crazy neighbor who insists her boy is not her son. As the kid begins to change in unsettling ways, she finds a terrifying connection between those changes and a mysterious sinkhole in the woods bordering her house. Is this paranoia on her part or is there something really horrifying going on?  March 1

Saint Judy

(Blue Fox) Michelle Monaghan, Common, Alfred Molina, Alfre Woodard. Based on a true story, a young lawyer starts her life over with her son at an immigration law firm in Los Angeles. She takes on a case in which a Muslim woman, if not given asylum in the United States, will almost certainly be killed if she returns home. The lawyer must find a way around existing laws to save this woman’s life – and a nation’s soul. March 1

Gloria Bell

(A24) Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Michael Cena, Jeanne Tripplehorn. The titular character is a 50-something office worker who lives a bland existence by day but by night hits the dance clubs of L.A. looking for love. One night, she finds it. March 8

I’m Not Here

(Gravitas Ventures) J.K. Simmons, Sebastian Stan, Maika Monroe, Mandy Moore. An old man, estranged from his family, receives terrible news. Lost and trying to make sense of his situation, he turns to his past to discover where things went so terribly wrong and perhaps that it isn’t too late to fix things. March 8

Ash is Purest White

(Cohen Media Group) Tao Zhao, Fan Liao, Zheng Xu, Yi’nan Diao. The girlfriend of a small-time gangster fires a gun to protect him during a fight between rival gangs and is sent to prison for five years for it. When she is released, she hopes to pick up where things left off but that becomes clearly impossible; both parties have changed too much. This is the latest from acclaimed Chinese director Zhangke Jia. March 15

Iceman

(Omnibus) Jürgen Vogel, Andrė Hennicke, Susanne Wuest, Sabin Tambrea. In the Őtztal Alps in 1991, a human body was found in a melting glacier. At first mistaken for a modern hiker, scientists were astonished to find the body was over 5,000 years old. Based on that true event, this movie is a conjecture as to how that man got to his final resting place. The preview is also available on most Virtual Reality services including Oculus Rift, this is one of the first independent features to be so available. March 15

Roll Red Roll

(Sunset Park) Nancy Schwartzman. A two-paragraph newspaper story about two Steubenville High School football players arrested for the rape of an underage girl set off an investigative journalist off to look deeper. What she discovered was a town so invested in their high school football team that they were exposing their daughters to danger to protect their sons. This look at the pervasiveness of rape culture in small town America made national headlines. March 22

Diane

(IFC) Mary Kay Place, Jake Lacy, Andrea Martin, Estelle Parsons. Diane has always been the sort who feels compelled to help others. She also has a son who is dealing with his own drug addiction. With her world quietly beginning to self-destruct around her, Diane must face some elements of her past that she’d sooner forget. March 29