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One-part Gothic, one-part sick comedy...all together unsuccessful
Actress Diane Ladd is one of our great natural resources. She faintly or fiercely breathes theatrics, whichever emotion is called for. She must have heartily believed in this windy material based on Ella Leffland's novel; Ladd adapted the script, has the starring role, and directed the movie (which debuted on cable in the U.S.). She plays a recently widowed lady who takes in a handicapped old geezer nobody likes: her dead husband's stepfather, a man she shares quite a sordid history with. Ladd comes on like a loopy beauty dancing around her house like an overage Southern belle, or entering a room with a whooping, high-decibel "Good morning!", enough to wake the dead. It's a showy performance in a film that never finds its tone. Ladd's decision to cast real-life ex-husband Bruce Dern in the part of the old man doesn't quite come off (they often trade bemused, knowing looks with one another which don't appear to have anything to do with the story). The film begins like an eccentric comedy--a geriatric, garden-house variation on "Misery"--but once it becomes clear Ladd is taking these characters to heart, with the utmost seriousness, the whole scheme comes down like a house of cards. Worse, Ladd as a director underlines the proceedings with florid sentiment, yet she hasn't shaped these two squabbling people with the viewer's sympathies in mind. She loves them more than we do...and she forgets to remind us why we should.
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