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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
My mother asked me if I wanted to watch a movie with her while I was
visiting. I normally don't watch TV movies. I don't have the patience
for them or even most cinematic movies these days, but every now and
again, I'll be surprised by what the networks come up with. So, not
wanting to disappoint my mother, I acquiesced. Spotting Vilmos
Zsigmond's name as the cinematographer during the opening credits made
me feel a little more hopeful.
Diane Keaton plays Natalie a mother grieving the loss of her daughter Sara. Sara was spending the Summer with old friends of hers at a New England beach house. Their vacation had just started when she dies in a car accident on the way back from getting ice cream. In order to deal with her death, Natalie ends up taking her daughter's place at the beach house. Initially, it is an awkward situation for everyone on two different levels. On top of dealing with Sara's death, Natalie never really cared for Sara's friends. Dealing with their own grief, the friends still recognize the delicate nature of the situation, knowing Sara was all she had, and humor her desire to be in the environment where her daughter spent the remaining days of her life.
The acting is good. Keaton is, of course the standout. She runs the gamut of emotions without turning herself into a clique, even when the material starts to border on the ridiculous. The scene where she hallucinates the clouds spelling out "Surrender Dorothy" (the "Land of Oz" reference her and Sara greeted each other with) is silly, but Keaton conveys the delirium Natalie feels at thinking she could actually bring her daughter back to life.
At first, I wished that we had gotten to know Sara just a bit more than we did. But, then, I realized that it made sense for us to only get a glimpse of her, because, as with the loss of anyone close to us, we all experience the desire to have just spent a little bit more time with them and/or gotten to know them just a little bit more. One of the things that I liked about this movie is that a lot of the way it took shape was very deliberate and effective. Another example would be a scene early on, before her death, when they are sitting outside, talking, drinking and having a good time. The camera kept going around in circles. I rolled my eyes thinking it was pretentious and then I even started feeling a little nauseous. Afterwards, I realized that its hyperkineticness served the story. They were friends, sitting around catching up with each other at a feverish pace, while inebriated. The memory of that night as their final one together with Sara probably took on a heightened reality after she died.
Because it is a TV movie, I don't judge it too harshly. It is at mercy of much higher censorship standards than a theatrically or video released film. And, I was surprised by some of the content in this CBS-movie-of-the-week. We saw people taking hallucinogenic mushrooms. We saw two young men in a homosexual relationship. We saw a woman in her late 50's in a lead role! None of this was without limits, of course. We saw the young heterosexual couple in bed, as well as them kissing. We saw no such interaction in the homosexual couple. That isn't to say that it should have occurred, only that to me it suggested a double standard. It would have been fine if I didn't see anyone romantically in bed together. But, this is a major network. I give it kudos for the aforementioned risky content it included (even if it was necessary just to tell the story). So, if it has to pay the price by not so subtly (to me, anyway) asserting a conservative bias, so be it. Just don't shoot be for observing it.
For a while, I was hoping the writers were shrewdly implying Natalie was this close-minded Republican, who was, ultimately, teachable. She reminded me so much of Bree Van Kamp from American TV's "Desperate Housewives." She is a very conservative woman who had a very unusual response to grieving the loss of her husband. We never really understood why Natalie wasn't friends with Adam, her daughter's best friend. We know that she didn't invite any of Sara's friends to the funeral, but there was specific discussion of her disdain towards Adam. We also know, towards the end of the film that she blamed him from keeping her daughter from moving on with a straight man. However, through most of the movie, I was thinking she was homophobic, but the writers didn't just come right out with it. But, then, she didn't judge Adam's boyfriend on the merit's of his gay relationship with Adam, especially considering his philandering ways. I was also trying to insinuate an antiabortion stance from the reaction she had when she found out about Sara's pregnancy. But, it could pain any mother in her position, whether pro-Choice or antiabortion, who found that her recently deceased daughter had given up an opportunity to give birth and, therefore, had given up a chance to leave a part of her behind. Oh, well, there goes that theory.
My favorite line involved Natalie reading Adam's latest play. She alluded to his previous work being a really good comedy (which begged the question of how she could go on not liking him, yet interested in what he had to write) and sensed that she was now dealing with a really uninteresting drama. She then insisted that he cannot go all Woody Allen on her "like when he made'Interiors.'" Any movie that can appropriately and humorously use a Woody Allen reference (delivered by one of his former muses no less) is alright in my book. Too bad my mother was asleep at that point to enjoy it!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Diane Keaton reminds me of an annoying girlfriend I had long ago. I
could not stand the girl (unfortunately, she was physically too
pervertedly perfect for me to dump her; eventually she caught onto the
fact that I stayed with her only for the sex and she dumped me.)
Unfortunately, Diane Keaton shares my old girlfriend's personality, and none of her physical properties.
When the guy calls her while she's driving, she acts like a giddy farm animal. Incredibly annoying woman.
Then he tells her to pull over, that there's been an accident, so she yells at him to just tell her what happened.
I sat here thinking to myself, "Let me guess. He tells her that her daughter's dead, and she crashes the car."
Incredibly, when he tells her, she dramatically raises her hands from the steering wheel and - yes, Virginia, there are amazingly bad movies made - she crashes the car.
It's like some horrid Lifetime movie. Such bad acting, such predictable plot, so unbelievably unwatchable that you turn it off in a fuming rage, long before it's over.
Or, in this case, only shortly after it even began.
Charles McDougall's resume includes directing episodes on 'Sex and the
City', 'Desperate Housewives', Queer as Folk', 'Big Love', 'The
Office', etc. so he comes with all the credentials to make the TV film
version of Meg Wolitzer's novel SURRENDER, DOROTHY a success. And for
the most part he manages to keep this potentially sappy story about
sudden death of a loved one and than manner in which the people in her
life react afloat.
Sara (Alexa Davalos) a beautiful unmarried young woman is accompanying her best friends - gay playwright Adam (Tom Everett Scott), Adam's current squeeze Shawn (Chris Pine), and married couple Maddy (Lauren German) and Peter (Josh Hopkins) with their infant son - to a house in the Hamptons for a summer vacation. The group seems jolly until a trip to the local ice creamery by Adam and Sara) results in an auto accident which kills Sara. Meanwhile Sara's mother Natalie Swedlow (Diane Keaton) who has an active social life but intrusively calls here daughter constantly with the mutual greeting 'Surrender, Dorothy', is playing it up elsewhere: when she receives the phone call that Sara is dead she immediately comes to the Hamptons where her overbearing personality and grief create friction among Sara's friends. Slowly but surely Natalie uncovers secrets about each of them, thriving on talking about Sara as though doing so would bring her to life. Natalie's thirst for truth at any cost results in major changes among the group and it is only through the binding love of the departed Sara that they all eventually come together.
Diane Keaton is at her best in these roles that walk the thread between drama and comedy and her presence holds the story together. The screenplay has its moments for good lines, but it also has a lot of filler that becomes a bit heavy and morose making the actors obviously uncomfortable with the lines they are given. Yes, this story has been told many times - the impact of sudden death on the lives of those whose privacy is altered by disclosures - but the film moves along with a cast pace and has enough genuine entertainment to make it worth watching. Grady Harp
I waited for this movie to come out for a while in Canada, and when it finally did, I was very excited to see it. I really enjoyed it. Of course, in the beginning, it is a very sad movie (and it was New Years Day - making it even sadder) - however, it sticks with you. The next day I was thinking about it again, because although it revolves around something so emotionally draining, you realize after a few days that it is such a beautiful story. How one person can be seen as the link to so many people, but sometimes you can be blinded so many things. And how Diane Keaton's character kind of saves the rest of them by just being there. And how they save her in the process as well. It was such an excellent movie, and Chris Pine (one of my favourite actors) provides the perfect comic relief. It is definitely a movie that will need a box of tissues, but will really stay with you for a long time.
Although the casting for this film was admirable, particularly Dianne
Keaton and Tom Everett Scott, the quality of the writing was so poor
that it would be impossible for any actor or director to make this film
My wife and I decided that the reason we watched the entire film was that it was like a train wreck, and it was almost impossible to turn away. It may have been that we "hoped" that the message would eventually make itself apparent, and that we would be able to glean some meaning from this effort. Unfortunately, this did not happen.
Of course the audience may have been able to "make sense" of this convoluted tale, a credit to the ingenuity of the human brain to make sense of the absurd. The writers, however, did NOTHING to facilitate this innate need we seem to have for finding meaning.
It was apparent that those involved were simply going through the motions of their respective crafts, and that any intrinsic passion for the characters or the story was either secondary or non-existent.
Unfortunately, made-for-TV movies have seemed to devolve over the years. Whereas communicating a message to the audience may to have been the primary interest of the writers in the past, present-day writers and producers seem condescending to their audience, concentrating primarily on manipulating us to "stay-tuned" through the incessant advertising which seems to be the only reason movies such as Surrender, Dorothy are made.
The movie held my interest, mainly because Dianne Keaton is my favorite actress. I disagree with some of the other posts on the grounds that the plot was not convoluted. I had no trouble following it (maybe some people had too much eggnog the night before). The movie was very sad and touching as well. What more do you want? Alexa Davalos is a fine new talent (beautiful too), and Tom Everett Scott does an excellent job with his part as well. The relationship of the mother and daughter may have been a bit unrealistic, but the behavior of the young people in the movie was not. It was tragically sad but enlightening. It sure beat the other shows that were on TV New Years Day evening
I very much enjoyed watching this film. I taped it while watching so that i could review it later. I actually enjoyed the second viewing more since i was able to absorb more of the clever dialog between Natalie and Adam, the 2 main characters. I thought the way this story evolved was very thought provoking. I got very intrigued with how Natalie was going to interact with her daughter's friends , at first it seemed that she was going to spew a lot of animosity but once she started interacting more pleasantly i had to see how this visit was going to unfold. i wasn't disappointed . Gradually the secrets that Sara kept from her mother started to reveal a daughter who was not so perfect, a flawed human being like most of us who wanted her freedom from a domineering mother who thought she knew her daughter but unfortunately had to learn in a very painful manner that sometimes to really love someone you have to give them their freedom. The viewers who stuck with this film to the end saw a very touching performance from Diane Keaton (who is always wonderful, even in some of her less well received films-think Town and Country). The closing scene of Diane Keaton driving home was well worth waiting for, revealing that anyone who loves another human being has got to learn that we have to live our own lives, we love others but don't own them and ultimately we have to let go. It's a hard lesson but well worth contemplating now and then.Thank you CBS for this broadcast,it was worth the long wait.
A number of earlier reviewers have done a good job of "synop-sizing"
this film's plot. But, notably, not many have devoted much time to
performances (other than several who've dedicated much of their
comments to the famous Diane Keaton and her characterization). At any
rate, please let me jump in here.
Depth of performance is not this film's strong point. Keaton's work here is kind of "slide by"........just not her best. There's a noticeable tendency to act out in an over-the-top manner---though she's usually able to pull it back in before things get too messy.
Career-wise, Josh Hopkins and Scott, both the same age, share about the same number of filmed performances, with Scott holding an edge in movie productions, as opposed to TV works. These are definitely the male leads of this production, but it is Hopkins, as Peter, who becomes head and shoulders the standout. He is quite, quite good, and it has to be asked why he's not further up the scale of stardom at this point (lack of good agency representation, perhaps). And if there's a breath of fresh air in all this, it's Chris Pine's performance of a ebullient Shawn. He's a cutie, a sweetie, and he shines. Nothing keeps his character down.
Playing a gay character (Adam), Scott is perhaps surprisingly at nowhere near the performance level of those already mentioned. His past work experience would lead one to expect otherwise, but, sadly, that is not the case. When Peter calls Adam a "Little Bitch" at one point in the film, he comes very close to describing what is my take on Scott's performance: someone whose characterization is "diva-ish"---which I believe to be really over the top, as opposed to the way this part should be played. More, when he's not doing that, his delivery just seems flat (see Tom run, see Tom run after Spot). So, for anyone reading this who might have something to do with assisting Scott in selecting future roles, please have him refrain from those involving a gay character. I just don't see that he has it in him; his one gay interaction with another player, a kiss with Shawn, is a disaster (it shouldn't be like giving your grandmother a peck; can't you do better than to give us a lips-glued-shut kiss?). Why take on any role like this if you can't throw yourself into it?
This production, in my opinion, is not one worth the expense of adding to your DVD collection.
I completely disagree with the other comments posted on this movie. For instance, the movie is based on the book and if the writer had a gay character in it then how could "Hollywood" just throw in a token gay character in the movie. And besides there was two gay characters and I thought they reflected each other great. One was normal and the other was more feminine but it wasn't over the top. And Diane Keaton gave a wonderful performance and if the other reviewer had the decency to actual watch the entire film they would have seen that her character developed through out the film by interacting with the other characters. For instance when she and Adam went to look at the car that Sara crashed in the junkyard you could see the maternal side of her come out and later in the film you saw that she too was invincible. But I guess if you're too worried about gay characters and characters that are flawed then this movie is bad. But if you're more open-minded and I don't know actually have some inkling of what is good then you'll enjoy this film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie is hilarious. The insane dialogue turns the story of a
grieving mother into a good comedy. Even though it looks like it was
shot in 1998, the production value is pretty good for a TV movie. But
that doesn't save this wounded animal. Right from the start realism
goes out the window, never to be seen again. Therefore nothing feels
natural, plus the acting seems odd and misplaced in most scenes.
The main players aren't sympathetic at all, even though they are intended to be. And Diane Keaton's character is supposed to be this empowering, fun-loving and cool baby boomer but she's just a hateable, annoying mess instead. People who have a good taste in movies need to watch "Surrender, Dorothy" just to push the reset button, cleanse the palate. This way you can appreciate the good films you watch.
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