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!